Being formal is all about being taken seriously. If you're invited to the White House, you'll want to make a good impression, so it's a good idea to adopt a generally formal demeanor. No jeans or trash talking allowed.

In our casual world, there are still many times we need to be formal, like at weddings or funerals. Adopting a formal manner — i.e., dressing up and not eating with your hands — will help you make a good impression on job interviewers or future in-laws. Being formal doesn't have to mean being stiff or unnatural; it's basically just using good manners and following the rules.

Definitions of formal
  1. adjective
    being in accord with established forms and conventions and requirements (as e.g. of formal dress)
    “pay one's formal respects”
    formal dress”
    “a formal ball”
    “the requirement was only formal and often ignored”
    “a formal education”
    following accepted customs and proprieties
    marked by pomp or ceremony or formality
    ceremonious, conventional
    rigidly formal or bound by convention
    dress, full-dress
    (of an occasion) requiring formal clothes
    being a matter of form only; lacking substance
    dress, full-dress
    suitable for formal occasions
    nominal, titular
    existing in name only
    positive, prescribed
    formally laid down or imposed
    perfunctory, pro forma
    as a formality only
    black-tie, semi-formal, semiformal
    moderately formal; requiring a dinner jacket
    buckram, starchy, stiff
    rigidly formal
    requiring white ties and tailcoats for men
    see moresee less
    not formal
    casual, daily, everyday
    appropriate for ordinary or routine occasions
    casual, free-and-easy
    natural and unstudied
    very informal and familiar
    unceremonial, unceremonious
    without ceremony or formality
    used of spoken and written language
    show more antonyms...
  2. adjective
    (of spoken and written language) adhering to traditional standards of correctness and without casual, contracted, and colloquial forms
    “the paper was written in formal English”
    appropriate to literature rather than everyday speech or writing
    given to rhetoric, emphasizing style at the expense of thought
    see moresee less
    used of spoken and written language
    not formal
    colloquial, conversational
    characteristic of informal spoken language or conversation
    common, vernacular, vulgar
    being or characteristic of or appropriate to everyday language
    epistolary, epistolatory
    written in the form of or carried on by letters or correspondence
    constituting or expressed in slang or given to the use of slang
    not written as or intended to be literature
    nonliterary, unliterary
    marked by lack of affectation or pedantry
    not rhetorical
    show more antonyms...
  3. noun
    a lavish dance requiring formal attire
    synonyms: ball
    see moresee less
    cotilion, cotillion
    a ball at which young ladies are presented to society
    fancy-dress ball, masked ball, masquerade ball
    a ball at which guests wear costumes and masks
    prom, promenade
    a formal ball held for a school class toward the end of the academic year
    type of:
    a party for social dancing
  4. noun
    a gown for evening wear
    synonyms: dinner dress, dinner gown, evening gown
    see moresee less
    type of:
    evening clothes, evening dress, eveningwear, formalwear
    attire to wear on formal occasions in the evening
    a woman's dress, usually with a close-fitting bodice and a long flared skirt, often worn on formal occasions
  5. adjective
    characteristic of or befitting a person in authority
    formal duties”
    having official authority or sanction
  6. adjective
    refined or imposing in manner or appearance; befitting a royal court
    synonyms: courtly, stately
    having or expressing dignity; especially formality or stateliness in bearing or appearance
  7. adjective
    logically deductive
    formal proof”
    capable of or reflecting the capability for correct and valid reasoning
  8. adjective
    represented in simplified or symbolic form
    synonyms: conventional, schematic
    of or relating to a style of art in which objects do not resemble those known in physical nature
Word Family

Test prep from the experts

Boost your test score with programs developed by’s experts.

  • Proven methods: Learn faster, remember longer with our scientific approach.
  • Personalized plan: We customize your experience to maximize your learning.
  • Strategic studying: Focus on the words that are most crucial for success.


  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 8 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week


  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 10 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week


  • Number of words: 700+
  • Duration: 10 weeks
  • Time: 1 hour / week