1 [fawr-muhl]
being in accordance with the usual requirements, customs, etc.; conventional: to pay one's formal respects.
marked by form or ceremony: a formal occasion.
designed for wear or use at occasions or events marked by elaborate ceremony or prescribed social observance: The formal attire included tuxedos and full-length gowns.
requiring a type of dress suitable for such occasions: a formal dance.
observant of conventional requirements of behavior, procedure, etc., as persons; ceremonious.
excessively ceremonious: a manner that was formal and austere.
being a matter of form only; perfunctory: We expected more than just formal courtesy.
made or done in accordance with procedures that ensure validity: a formal authorization.
of, pertaining to, or emphasizing the organization or composition of the constituent elements in a work of art perceived separately from its subject matter: a formal approach to painting; the formal structure of a poem.
being in accordance with prescribed or customary forms: a formal siege.
Theater. (of a stage setting) generalized and simplified in design, especially of architectural elements, and serving as a permanent set for a play irrespective of changes in location.
acquired in school; academic: He had little formal training in economics.
symmetrical or highly organized: a formal garden.
of, reflecting, or noting a usage of language in which syntax, pronunciation, etc., adhere to traditional standards of correctness and usage is characterized by the absence of casual, contracted, and colloquial forms: The paper was written in formal English.
pertaining to form.
Aristotelianism. not material; essential.
Logic. formal logic.
pertaining to the form, shape, or mode of a thing, especially as distinguished from the substance: formal writing, bereft of all personality.
being such merely in appearance or name; nominal: a formal head of the government having no actual powers.
(of a proof) in strict logical form with a justification for every step.
(of a calculation) correct in form; made with strict justification for every step.
(of a calculation, derivation, representation, or the like) of or pertaining to manipulation of symbols without regard to their meaning.
a dance, ball, or other social occasion that requires formalwear.
an evening gown.
in formal attire: We're supposed to go formal.

1350–1400; Middle English formal, formel < Latin fōrmālis. See form, -al1

formalness, noun

2. Formal, academic, conventional may have either favorable or unfavorable implications. Formal may mean in proper form, or may imply excessive emphasis on empty form. In the favorable sense, academic applies to scholars or higher institutions of learning; it may, however, imply slavish conformance to mere rules, or to belief in impractical theories. Conventional in a favorable sense, applies to desirable conformity with accepted conventions or customs; but it more often is applied to arbitrary, forced, or meaningless conformity. 5. conforming, conformist. 6. punctilious. 8. official. Unabridged


2 [fawr-mal]
noun Chemistry.

1895–1900; from formaldehyde Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
formal1 (ˈfɔːməl)
1.  of, according to, or following established or prescribed forms, conventions, etc: a formal document
2.  characterized by observation of conventional forms of ceremony, behaviour, dress, etc: a formal dinner
3.  methodical, precise, or stiff
4.  suitable for occasions organized according to conventional ceremony: formal dress
5.  denoting or characterized by idiom, vocabulary, etc, used by educated speakers and writers of a language
6.  acquired by study in academic institutions: a formal education
7.  regular or symmetrical in form: a formal garden
8.  of or relating to the appearance, form, etc, of something as distinguished from its substance
9.  logically deductive: formal proof
10.  philosophy
 a.  of or relating to form as opposed to matter or content
 b.  pertaining to the essence or nature of something: formal cause
 c.  (in the writings of Descartes) pertaining to the correspondence between an image or idea and its object
 d.  being in the formal mode
11.  denoting a second-person pronoun in some languages used when the addressee is a stranger, social superior, etc: in French the pronoun ``vous'' is formal, while ``tu'' is informal
[C14: from Latin formālis]

formal2 (ˈfɔːmæl)
another name for methylal
[C19: from form(ic) + -al³]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

late 14c., from L. formalis, from forma (see form). As a noun, short for formal dance, first recorded 1946.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Computing Dictionary

FORMAL definition

1. FORmula MAnipulation Language.
An early Fortran extension for symbolic mathematics.
["FORMAL, A Formula Manipulation Language", C.K. Mesztenyi, Computer Note CN-1, CS Dept, U Maryland (Jan 1971)].
2. A data manipulation language for nonprogrammers from IBM LASC.
["FORMAL: A Forms-Oriented and Visual-Directed Application System", N.C. Shu, IEEE Computer 18(8):38-49 (1985)].
The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010
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Example sentences
They are in contrast with the rest of the picture, which is stylized, with
  little except formal lines of tension.
Rigid in respect of the upper lip, he sticks to a stern routine of exercises
  and always dresses in formal attire for dinner.
And when he hires cooks for his own kitchen, he pays scant attention to their
  formal culinary schooling.
With that in mind, the military needs to establish a formal data system for
  tracking such relationships.
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