Adhesion, in a given circumstance, to the cultural norms of that which is considered ultimately "proper," presumably to avoid causing offense -- to follow a strict social "form." In western culture, norms follow a trend of impersonality; to call as little spectacle (or attention) to the individual as possible.

For*mal"i*ty (?), n.; pl. Formalities (#). [Cf. F. formalit'e.]

1.

The condition or quality of being formal, strictly ceremonious, precise, etc.

2.

Form without substance.

Such [books] as are mere pieces of formality, so that if you look on them, you look though them. Fuller.

3.

Compliance with formal or conventional rules; ceremony; conventionality.

Nor was his attendance on divine offices a matter of formality and custom, but of conscience. Atterbury.

4.

An established order; conventional rule of procedure; usual method; habitual mode.

He was installed with all the usual formalities. C. Middleton.

5. pl.

The dress prescribed for any body of men, academical, municipal, or sacerdotal.

[Obs.]

The doctors attending her in their formalities as far as Shotover. Fuller.

6.

That which is formal; the formal part.

It unties the inward knot of marriage, . . . while it aims to keep fast the outward formality. Milton.

7.

The quality which makes a thing what it is; essence.

The material part of the evil came from our father upon us, but the formality of it, the sting and the curse, is only by ourselves. Jer. Taylor.

The formality of the vow lies in the promise made to God. Bp. Stillingfleet.

8. Scholastic. Philos.

The manner in which a thing is conceived or constituted by an act of human thinking; the result of such an act; as, animality and rationality are formalities.

 

© Webster 1913.

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