for·mu·la | \ˈfȯr-myə-lə \
plural formulas or formulae\ˈfȯr-myə-ˌlē, -ˌlī \

Definition of formula 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1a : a set form of words for use in a ceremony or ritual

b : a conventionalized statement intended to express some fundamental truth or principle especially as a basis for negotiation or action

2a(1) : recipe The product is made using a secret formula that the company refuses to reveal.

(2) : prescription

b : a milk mixture or substitute for feeding an infant

3a : a general fact, rule, or principle expressed in usually mathematical symbols

b : a symbolic expression of the chemical composition or constitution of a substance

c : a group of symbols (such as letters and numbers) associated to express facts or data (such as the number and kinds of teeth in the jaw) concisely

d : a combination of signs in a logical calculus

4 : a customary or set form or method allowing little room for originality All her books were written according to a familiar formula.



Definition of formula (Entry 2 of 2)

: of, relating to, or being an open-wheel open-cockpit rear-engine racing car conforming to prescribed specifications as to size, weight, and engine displacement

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Other Words from formula


formulaic \ˌfȯr-myə-ˈlā-ik \ adjective
formulaically \ˌfȯr-myə-ˈlā-ə-k(ə-)lē \ adverb

Examples of formula in a Sentence


His investment strategy is based on a simple formula. This has proven to be a winning formula. The product is made using a secret formula that the company refuses to reveal. The formula for water is H2O. infants drinking formula instead of their mother's milk
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Those fortunate enough to be in the super high-earner category should still pay a larger share, but this formula shouldn’t be so distorted that swings in the economy have major impact on the flow of tax dollars to the state treasury. sacbee, "Tax haircuts and concerts – or the rich? Californians consider the options," 9 July 2018 The Hot 100 will also employ this formula beginning with the July 14-dated ranking. Kevin Rutherford, Billboard, "Drake's 'Scorpion' Is the First Album to Hit 1 Billion Global Streams in a Single Week," 6 July 2018 The Charter Oak in St. Helena is part of a new generation of restaurants that are honoring this now traditional formula. New York Times, "36 Hours in Napa Valley," 21 June 2018 This formula, while very satisfying, does come with a caveat. Katie Heaney, The Cut, "Is Becoming a Hermit the Only Way to Avoid Sunburn?," 20 June 2018 Proponents of this formula say the ability to pass a high-stakes standardized test is what matters most, regardless of student background. Valerie Strauss, Washington Post, "N.C. teacher: Test score says the year was a dismal failure for my student — but it really was ‘a resounding success’," 8 June 2018 Whether this formula is replicable for the Cavs remains to be seen, particularly for a team used to doing its best work from the outside. Rohan Nadkarni,, "Cavs Best Celtics in Game 4 With Timely Performance in the Paint," 21 May 2018 The new, dewier formula sinks in quickly for a lasting silky feeling. The Cut, "How to Get the Most Out of Your Serum," 13 July 2018 Lilacs do not respond well to exposure to the weed part of those formulas. Jeff Lowenfels, Anchorage Daily News, "Here’s what’s eating your currant bushes and ‘spitting’ on your wild roses," 13 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'formula.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of formula


1618, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1951, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for formula


Latin, diminutive of forma form


see formula entry 1

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Learn More about formula

Phrases Related to formula

magic formula

Statistics for formula

Last Updated

8 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for formula

The first known use of formula was in 1618

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More Definitions for formula



English Language Learners Definition of formula

: a plan or method for doing, making, or achieving something

: a list of the ingredients used for making something (such as a medicine or a drink)

mathematics : a general fact or rule expressed in letters and symbols


for·mu·la | \ˈfȯr-myə-lə \

Kids Definition of formula

1 : a direction giving amounts of the substances for the preparation of something (as a medicine)

2 : an established form or method a formula for success

3 : a milk mixture or substitute for feeding a baby

4 : a general fact or rule expressed in symbols We learned a formula for finding the size of an angle.

5 : an expression in symbols giving the makeup of a substance The chemical formula for water is H2O.


for·mu·la | \ˈfȯr-myə-lə \
plural formulas or formulae\-ˌlē, -ˌlī \

Medical Definition of formula 

1a : a recipe or prescription giving method and proportions of ingredients for the preparation of some material (as a medicine)

b : a milk mixture or substitute (as one containing soybean protein) for feeding an infant

2 : a symbolic expression showing the composition or constitution of a chemical substance and consisting of symbols for the elements present and subscripts to indicate the relative or total number of atoms present in a molecule the formula for ethyl alcohol is C2H5OH — see empirical formula, molecular formula, structural formula

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More from Merriam-Webster on formula

Spanish Central: Translation of formula

Nglish: Translation of formula for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of formula for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about formula

Comments on formula

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one that holds something together

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