Meaning of “formal” in the English Dictionary

"formal" in British English

See all translations


uk /ˈfɔː.məl/ us /ˈfɔːr.məl/

formal adjective (OFFICIAL)

C1 public or official:

formal procedures
a formal announcement

in appearance or by name only:

I am the formal leader of the project but the everyday management is in the hands of my assistant.

More examples

  • They wanted to make a formal complaint about their doctor.
  • The US lodged a formal protest against the arrest of the foreign reporters.
  • My client accepts the formal apology without prejudice to any further legal action she may decide to take.
  • A formal protest was made by the German team about their disqualification from the relay final.
  • Most modern kings and queens rule their countries only in a formal way, without real power.

formal adjective (SERIOUS)

B2 Formal language, clothes, and behaviour are suitable for serious or official occasions:

a formal dinner party

More examples

  • Is it considered improper to wear such a short skirt to a formal occasion?
  • It's incorrect to address people by their first names at these formal events.
  • His casual behaviour was wholly inappropriate for such a formal occasion.
  • He writes in a formal and rather stilted style.
  • My clothes for work tend to be quite formal.

formalnoun [ C ]

uk /ˈfɔː.məl/ us /ˈfɔːr.məl/

(Definition of “formal” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"formal" in American English

See all translations


us /ˈfɔr·məl/

using an agreed and often official or traditional way of doing things:

There are formal procedures for applying to become a US citizen.

If a social occasion is formal, you wear traditional or very good clothes:

It was a formal affair, and men were supposed to wear dark suits or tuxedos.

Formal language is the language used esp. in writing in situations that are official and which is often more difficult than the language used in ordinary conversation.

Formal education/training is the learning of a subject or skill from courses in a school:

His formal education ended at the sixth grade, but he became a millionaire at the age of thirty.

formalnoun [ C ]

us /ˈfɔr·məl/

a dance at which women wear fashionable, expensive dresses and men wear tuxedos or similar clothes

(Definition of “formal” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)

"formal" in Business English

See all translations


uk /ˈfɔːməl/ us

stated or agreed in writing:

a formal agreement/contract/offer They are required to make a binding formal offer and then publish an offer document within 28 days.

done publicly or officially:

a formal announcement/discussion/investigation The two companies began formal discussions to renegotiate the $2.8 billion power project.

used to describe clothing that is suitable for important or official occasions:

Please note that formal dress is not required at the dinner.

used to describe education or training that is received in a school or college:

Lacking formal education, he worked as a sharecropper and journeyman laborer to support his family.

ECONOMICS used to describe businesses that are officially recognized, pay taxes, etc.:

In Mexico small and medium-sized enterprises generate six out of ten jobs in the formal sector.

The bid for the company could be formally accepted early next week.

(Definition of “formal” from the Cambridge Business English Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)

Blogs about "formal"