Relating to or involving outward form or structure. Being or relating to essential form or constitution: a formal principle. Following or being in accord with accepted forms, conventions, or regulations: had little formal education; went to a formal party. Executed, carried out, or done in proper or regular form: a formal reprimand; a formal document. Characterized by strict or meticulous observation of forms; methodical: very formal in their business transactions. Stiffly ceremonious: a formal manner; a formal greeting; a formal bow to the monarch. Having the outward appearance but lacking in substance: a formal requirement that is usually ignored. Something, such as a gown or social affair, that is formal in nature.