A formation is an arrangement of people or things. Planes flying in formation make a deliberate, specific pattern in the sky.

Some formations are on purpose, or deliberate — like military troops marching in formation or a cheerleading squad arranging itself in formation. Others just arrange themselves in a particular way by chance, like a striking cloud formation overhead. You can also talk about the formation — or establishment — of something less physical, like the formation of a new government. The Latin root, formationem, means "a shaping."

Primary Meanings of formation

the act of forming or establishing something
a particular spatial arrangement
(geology) the geological features of the earth
Full Definitions of formation

n the act of forming or establishing something

constitution, establishment, organisation, organization
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unionisation, unionization
act of forming labor unions
collectivisation, collectivization
the organization of a nation or economy on the basis of collectivism
communisation, communization
the organization of a nation of the basis of communism
the act of constituting a political unity out of a number of separate states or colonies or provinces so that each member retains the management of its internal affairs
colonisation, colonization, settlement
the act of colonizing; the establishment of colonies
the act of populating (causing to live in a place)
Type of:
beginning, commencement, start
the act of starting something

n natural process that causes something to form

“the formation of gas in the intestine”
“the formation of crystals”
“the formation of pseudopods”
encrustation, incrustation
the formation of a crust
(photography) the formation of a network of cracks or wrinkles in a photographic emulsion
Type of:
action, activity, natural action, natural process
a process existing in or produced by nature (rather than by the intent of human beings)

n the act of fabricating something in a particular shape

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the act of using a file (as in shaping or smoothing an object)
shaping metal by heating and hammering
metalwork, metalworking
the activity of making things out of metal in a skillful manner
the act of forming something into granules or grains
grooving, rifling
the cutting of spiral grooves on the inside of the barrel of a firearm
the activity of shaping something on a lathe
Type of:
fabrication, manufacture, manufacturing
the act of making something (a product) from raw materials

n creation by mental activity

“the formation of sentences”
“the formation of memories”
formation of a word by means of an affix
formation of a word by means of a prefix
formation of a word by means of a suffix
Type of:
creating by mental acts
the act of creating something by thinking

n a particular spatial arrangement

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the rectangular formation of parallel scanning lines that guide the electron beam on a television screen or a computer monitor
rig, rigging
formation of masts, spars, sails, etc., on a vessel
(tenpin bowling) a divided formation of pins left standing after the first bowl
Bermuda rig, Bermudan rig, Bermudian rig, Marconi rig
a rig of triangular sails for a yacht
cat rig
rig of a catboat
fore-and-aft rig
rig in which the principal sails are fore-and-aft
the rig on a lateen-rigged sailing vessel
Type of:
arrangement, placement
the spatial property of the way in which something is placed

n an arrangement of people or things acting as a unit

“a defensive formation
“a formation of planes”
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a formation of aircraft in flight
military formation
a formation of troops
the offensive football players who line up behind the linemen
the defensive football players who line up behind the linemen
a formation of people or things one behind another
a formation of people or things one beside another
the middle of a military or naval formation
flank, wing
the side of military or naval formation
the front of a military formation or procession
the back of a military formation or procession
rivet line
a line of rivets at a seam
chorus, chorus line
a body of dancers or singers who perform together
an oblique line of squares of the same color on a checkerboard
open order
a military formation leaving enough space between ranks to allow an inspecting officer to pass
close order
a military formation for drill or marching
extended order
a military formation for skirmishing; as widely separated as the tactical situation permits
sick call, sick parade
the daily military formation at which individuals report to the medical officer as sick
Indian file, file, single file
a line of persons or things ranged one behind the other
the football players who line up on the line of scrimmage
line of march
the arrangement of people in a line for marching
line of succession
the order in which individuals are expected to succeed one another in some official position
a line of persons arranged by police for inspection or identification
picket line
a line of people acting as pickets
an arrangement of objects or people side by side in a line
a row or line of people (especially soldiers or police) standing abreast of one another
conga line
a line of people in single file performing the conga dance
trap line
a line or series of traps
queue, waiting line
a line of people or vehicles waiting for something
Type of:
an orderly grouping (of things or persons) considered as a unit; the result of arranging

n (geology) the geological features of the earth

geological formation
Pillars of Hercules
the two promontories at the eastern end of the Strait of Gibraltar; according to legend they were formed by Hercules
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underground bed or layer yielding groundwater for wells, springs, etc.
an area of sand sloping down to the water of a sea or lake
a geological formation consisting of an underground enclosure with access from the surface of the ground or from the sea
cliff, drop, drop-off
a steep high face of rock
a low triangular area of alluvial deposits where a river divides before entering a larger body of water
a domed rock formation where a core of rock has moved upward and pierced through the more brittle overlying strata
a thin layer or stratum of (especially metamorphic) rock
the part of the seashore between the highwater mark and the low-water mark
ice mass
a large mass of ice
land bordering a lake
a block of the earth's crust bounded by faults and shifted to form peaks of a mountain range
a geological formation in which all strata are inclined in the same direction
the point where a stream issues into a larger body of water
depression, natural depression
a sunken or depressed geological formation
elevation, natural elevation
a raised or elevated geological formation
land bordering an ocean
chain, chain of mountains, mountain chain, mountain range, range, range of mountains
a series of hills or mountains
geological feature that is a remnant of a pre-existing formation after other parts have disappeared
ridge, ridgeline
a long narrow range of hills
a long narrow natural elevation on the floor of the ocean
the land along the edge of a body of water
incline, side, slope
an elevated geological formation
fountain, natural spring, outflow, outpouring, spring
a natural flow of ground water
scree, talus
a sloping mass of loose rocks at the base of a cliff
mineral vein, vein
a layer of ore between layers of rock
crater, volcanic crater
a bowl-shaped geological formation at the top of a volcano
a vertical (or almost vertical) smooth rock face (as of a cave or mountain)
groundwater level, water level, water table
underground surface below which the ground is wholly saturated with water
a sharp narrow ridge found in rugged mountains
acclivity, ascent, climb, raise, rise, upgrade
an upward slope or grade (as in a road)
sloping land (especially the slope beside a body of water)
bank, camber, cant
a slope in the turn of a road or track; the outside is higher than the inside in order to reduce the effects of centrifugal force
a natural depression in the surface of the land often with a lake at the bottom of it
bed, bottom
a depression forming the ground under a body of water
an especially rich vein of precious ore
a large crater caused by the violent explosion of a volcano that collapses into a depression
the steeply sloping side of a canyon
a large cave or a large chamber in a cave
a slope down which sleds may coast
small or narrow cave in the side of a cliff or mountain
a steep rugged rock or cliff
a bowl-shaped depression formed by the impact of a meteorite or bomb
declension, declination, decline, declivity, descent, downslope, fall
a downward slope or bend
escarpment, scarp
a long steep slope or cliff at the edge of a plateau or ridge; usually formed by erosion
Fountain of Youth
a fountain described in folk tales as able to make people young again
a spring that discharges hot water and steam
a slowly moving mass of ice
grot, grotto
a small cave (usually with attractive features)
highland, upland
elevated (e.g., mountainous) land
a local and well-defined elevation of the land
the side or slope of a hill
hogback, horseback
a narrow ridge of hills
hole, hollow
a depression hollowed out of solid matter
hot spring, thermal spring
a natural spring of water at a temperature of 70 F or above
berg, iceberg
a large mass of ice floating at sea; usually broken off of a polar glacier
ice cap, icecap
a mass of ice and snow that permanently covers a large area of land (e.g., the polar regions or a mountain peak)
ice field
a large flat mass of ice (larger than an ice floe) floating at sea
floe, ice floe
a flat mass of ice (smaller than an ice field) floating at sea
lakeshore, lakeside
the shore of a lake
low level country
a flat-bottomed volcanic crater that was formed by an explosion; often filled with water
mount, mountain
a land mass that projects well above its surroundings; higher than a hill
mountainside, versant
the side or slope of a mountain
a gentle slope leading from the base of a mountain to a region of flat land
the beach at a seaside resort
a very steep cliff
foreland, head, headland, promontory
a natural elevation (especially a rocky one that juts out into the sea)
a long narrow natural elevation or striation
coast, sea-coast, seacoast, seashore
the shore of a sea or ocean
sink, sinkhole, swallow hole
a depression in the ground communicating with a subterranean passage (especially in limestone) and formed by solution or by collapse of a cavern roof
ski slope
a snow-covered slope for skiing
a poetic term for a shore (as the area periodically covered and uncovered by the tides)
a rounded elevation (especially one on an ocean floor)
deep, oceanic abyss, trench
a long steep-sided depression in the ocean floor
a narrow depression (as in the earth or between ocean waves or in the ocean bed)
vale, valley
a long depression in the surface of the land that usually contains a river
Type of:
object, physical object
a tangible and visible entity; an entity that can cast a shadow

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