Definition of formality in English:

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Pronunciation: /fôrˈmalədē/

noun (plural formalities)

1The rigid observance of rules of convention or etiquette: he retained the formality of his social background
More example sentences
  • For Vera and her family, tea consoles; for the Wells and their set, it's a ceremony, observed like everything else, with rigid formality.
  • They were also the evolutionary years that bridged the gap between the rigid formality of the Edwardian styles and the ultimate changes that led to the knee-length dresses of 1926.
  • There are no traditional rules or rigid formality or fairy tale settings involving tormented love between a man and woman.
1.1Stiffness of behavior or style: with disconcerting formality, the brothers shook hands
More example sentences
  • Shirley was always disturbed by the formality he displayed in front of her brother, though she said nothing of it.
  • She stood with a rigid formality, but her eyes were vacant and her lips moved silently.
  • As a beginning teacher, I cultivated an ethos of formality and distance.
1.2 (usually formalities) A thing that is done simply to comply with requirements of etiquette, regulations, or custom: legal formalities
More example sentences
  • In the past, customs regulations and formalities were cumbersome and this resulted in freight delays.
  • The bureaucratic red tape and formalities that one has to go through is the source of frustration to everyone who lives here.
  • Why all the formalities and petty regulations, if one is supposed to become free?
official procedure, bureaucracy, red tape, paperwork
1.3 (a formality) Something that is done as a matter of course and without question; an inevitability: her saying no was just a formality, and both of them knew it
More example sentences
  • The matter was only a formality for the members at the UDC as they are fully refunded by the Department of the Environment.
  • The question was merely a formality; the answer was obvious.
  • It was, in my case, mainly a formality, but a formality that raised important questions that I promised myself I would revisit someday.
routine, routine practice, normal procedure


Mid 16th century (in the sense 'accordance with legal rules or conventions'): from French formalité or medieval Latin formalitas, from formalis (see formal).

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