American English

Definition of formal adjective from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary



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  1. 1(of a style of dress, speech, writing, behavior, etc.) very correct and suitable for official or important occasions formal evening wear The dinner was very formal. He kept the tone of the letter formal and businesslike. She has a very formal manner, which can seem unfriendly. opposite informal
  2. 2official; following an agreed or official way of doing things formal legal processes to make a formal apology/complaint/request Formal diplomatic relations between the two countries were re-established in December. It is time to put these arrangements on a slightly more formal basis.
  3. 3(of education or training) received in a school, college, or university, with classes, exams, etc., rather than gained just through practical experience He has no formal teaching qualifications. Young children are beginning their formal education sometimes as early as four years old.
  4. 4concerned with the way something is done rather than what is done Getting approval for the plan is a purely formal matter; nobody will seriously oppose it. Critics have concentrated too much on the formal elements of her poetry, without really looking at what it is saying.
  5. 5(of a garden, room, or building) arranged in a regular manner, according to a clear, exact plan stately formal gardens, with terraced lawns and an avenue of trees opposite informal
adverb “How do you do?” she said formally. The accounts were formally approved by the board. Although not formally trained as an art historian, he is widely respected for his knowledge of the period.
See the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary entry: formal