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

In a lot of ways, RDR2 doesn’t actually stray too far from the formula laid down by developer Rockstar with games like Grand Theft Auto V and the original Red Dead Redemption. Andrew Webster, The Verge, "Red Dead Redemption 2 is the most convincing open-world game ever made," 25 Oct. 2018 Even now, under the FiveThirtyEight formula, Flake is voting with Trump 83 percent of the time — near the bottom, as Republican senators go. Dylan Scott, Vox, "Brett Kavanaugh is Jeff Flake’s most important test," 3 Oct. 2018 Decisions will have to be made quickly about playing time and roles, and part of that formula is figuring out how Wade best fits into coach Erik Spoelstra’s plan. Tim Reynolds, The Seattle Times, "‘He has more to give’: Wade’s last dance with Heat begins," 24 Sep. 2018 Other European cities are aiming to replicate that formula. Sam Schechner, WSJ, "Adyen’s IPO Success Spurs Hopes European Tech Scene Has Turned a Corner," 15 Sep. 2018 Since 1983, the concept was designed to handle electric shock, gravity stress, low temperatures, vibration, water and extreme wear, and that hardware formula's only been improved in the last 35 years. Tim Newcomb, Popular Mechanics, "Casio's G-Shock Gets Bluetooth and a New Look," 13 Sep. 2018 Today's sale doesn't deviate much from the usual formula: the coupon code is effective until 1:00am ET, can only be used once, only applies to items $25 or greater, and can only take a maximum of $100 off. Ars Staff, Ars Technica, "Dealmaster: Get a pair of Apple AirPods for $136," 28 Aug. 2018 Dues are apportioned under a cost-sharing formula based on gross national income. David S. Cloud,, "Here's what you need to know about Trump's complaints to NATO allies about defense spending," 11 July 2018 That new formula was in effect the last 10 years of the BCS, 10 out of the 16 years. Joan Niesen,, "The Computer Poll Uprising: Creators of the BCS's Most Controversial Component Look Back," 11 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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Statistics for formula

Last Updated

17 Nov 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

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