A formality is something that follows traditional rules. Even though you knew your request for time off at work would be approved, you still went through the formality of filling out all the required paperwork.

Formality also means to align with customs or etiquette. In this way, a formality is often something that's more symbolic than necessary. For example, when a big group sits down to eat dinner together, no one starts eating until everyone is served. That formality of dining etiquette is a sign of good manners and consideration for others. If you're British, a formality of your culture is to curtsy or bow when you meet the Queen.

Definitions of formality

n a requirement of etiquette or custom

“a mere formality
Type of:
ceremonial, ceremonial occasion, ceremony, observance
a formal event performed on a special occasion

n compliance with formal rules

“courtroom formality
Type of:
abidance, compliance, conformation, conformity
acting according to certain accepted standards

n a manner that strictly observes all forms and ceremonies

“the formality of his voice made the others pay him close attention”
a manner that does not take forms and ceremonies seriously
a ceremonial manner
an elaborate manner of doing something
Type of:
manner, personal manner
a way of acting or behaving

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