noun, plural formulas, formulae [fawr-myuh-lee] .
a set form of words, as for stating or declaring something definitely or authoritatively, for indicating procedure to be followed, or for prescribed use on some ceremonial occasion.
any fixed or conventional method for doing something: His mystery stories were written according to a popular formula.
a rule or principle, frequently expressed in algebraic symbols.
such a symbolic expression.
Chemistry. an expression of the constituents of a compound by symbols and figures. Compare empirical formula, molecular formula, structural formula.
a recipe or prescription: a new formula for currant wine.
a special nutritive mixture, especially of milk, sugar, and water, in prescribed proportions for feeding a baby.
a formal statement of religious doctrine.
(initial capital letter) a set of specifications as to weight, engine displacement, fuel capacity, etc., for defining a class of racing cars (usually followed by a limiting numerical designation): Some races are open to Formula One cars.

1575–85; < Latin: register, form, rule. See form, -ule Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
formula (ˈfɔːmjʊlə)
n , pl -las, -lae
1.  an established form or set of words, as used in religious ceremonies, legal proceedings, etc
2.  maths, physics a general relationship, principle, or rule stated, often as an equation, in the form of symbols
3.  chem molecular formula empirical formula See structural formula a representation of molecules, radicals, ions, etc, expressed in the symbols of the atoms of their constituent elements
4.  a.  a method, pattern, or rule for doing or producing something, often one proved to be successful
 b.  (as modifier): formula fiction
5.  a.  a prescription for making up a medicine, baby's food, etc
 b.  a substance prepared according to such a prescription
6.  motor racing the specific category in which a particular type of car competes, judged according to engine size, weight, and fuel capacity
[C17: from Latin: diminutive of formaform]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin & History

1630s, from L. formula "form, rule, method, formula," lit. "small form," dim. of forma "form." Originally, "words used in a ceremony or ritual." Modern sense is colored by Carlyle's use of the word for "rule slavishly followed without understanding" (1837).
"Men who try to speak what they believe, are naked men fighting men quilted sevenfold in formulae." [Charles Kingsley, "Letters," 1861]
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Medical Dictionary

formula for·mu·la (fôr'myə-lə)
n. pl. for·mu·las or for·mu·lae (-lē')

  1. A symbolic representation of the chemical composition or of the chemical composition and structure of a compound.

  2. The chemical compound so represented.

  3. A prescription of ingredients in fixed proportion; a recipe.

  4. A liquid food for infants, containing most of the nutrients in human milk.

  5. A mathematical statement, especially an equation, of a fact, rule, principle, or other logical relation.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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American Heritage
Science Dictionary
formula   (fôr'myə-lə)  Pronunciation Key 
Plural formulas or formulae (fôr'myə-lē')
  1. A set of symbols showing the composition of a chemical compound. A formula lists the elements contained within it and indicates the number of atoms of each element with a subscript numeral if the number is more than 1. For example, H2O is the formula for water, where H2 indicates two atoms of hydrogen and O indicates one atom of oxygen.

  2. A set of symbols expressing a mathematical rule or principle. For example, the formula for the area of a rectangle is a = lw, where a is the area, l the length, and w the width.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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Computing Dictionary

formula definition

1. In logic, a sequence of symbols representing terms, predicates, connectives and quantifiers which is either true or false.
2. FORTH Music Language. An extension of FORTH with concurrent note-playing processes. Runs on Macintosh and Atari ST with MIDI output.
["Formula: A Programming Language for Expressive Computer Music", D.P. Anderson et al Computer 24(7):12 (Jul 1991)].
3. Preprocessor language for the Acorn Archimedes, allowing inline high-level statements to be entered in an assembly program. Written in nawk.

The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010
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Example sentences
The university uses its own formula for calculating job rank.
Then ask students to use the population density formula and a calculator to
  calculate the population density for each state.
Experiment with our variations to find your favorite formula.
My point is that it doesn't specify a formula at all.
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