1excessive adherence to prescribed forms:academic dryness and formalism the use of forms of worship without regard to inner significance. the basing of ethics on the form of the moral law without regard to intention or consequences. concern or excessive concern with form and technique rather than content in artistic creation. (in the theater) a symbolic and stylized manner of production. the treatment of mathematics as a manipulation of meaningless symbols. 2a description of something in formal mathematical or logical terms.