Definition of formal adjective from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary



    BrE BrE//ˈfɔːml//
    ; NAmE NAmE//ˈfɔːrml//
    Describing clothes, How a building looks
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  1. 1  (of a style of dress, speech, writing, behaviour, etc.) very correct and suitable for official or important occasions formal evening dress The dinner was a formal affair. He kept the tone of the letter formal and businesslike. She has a very formal manner, which can seem unfriendly. opposite informal See related entries: Describing clothes
  2. 2  official; 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 lessons, 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 delightful formal gardens, with terraced lawns and an avenue of trees See related entries: How a building looks
  6. opposite informal
    Word Originlate Middle English: from Latin formalis, from forma ‘shape, mould’.Extra examples Her words sounded oddly formal. His manner was stiffly formal. Learning was by rote and strictly formal. The greeting was polite, almost formal. The monarch retains largely formal duties. He insisted on formal dress for dinner. Howard has a rather formal way of speaking. In those days, tutors were formal and distant. On receipt of a formal complaint the inspectorate is required to investigate. Once the loan has been approved we’ll send a formal agreement for you to sign. The government has lodged a formal diplomatic protest about the decision. The organization is not a formal political party. The two governments announced their formal acceptance of the scheme. There followed a formal request for military aid. There has been no formal announcement of her resignation yet. What this announcement does is put the arrangement on a formal basis.
See the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary entry: formal