Definition of formula in English:



  • 1A mathematical relationship or rule expressed in symbols.

    ‘the formula for the capacitance of a spherical capacitor’
    • ‘One of his papers in 1895 improved on Riemann's contour integral formula for the number of primes in a given interval.’
    • ‘The formula for the calculation also makes it possible to predict impact factor for an upcoming year with reasonable accuracy.’
    • ‘Its 92 problems illustrate the formula for summing an arithmetic progression.’
    • ‘Using NA as the total number of links in the network and N as the total number of persons, here is a mathematical formula for density.’
    • ‘This is a quadratic equation in a 3, so solve for a 3 using the usual formula for a quadratic.’
    • ‘His focus seemed to be distracted or maybe Nanci succeeded and had found the mathematical formula for regret.’
    • ‘A formula for the line integral of the geodesic curvature along a closed curve is known as the Gauss Bonnet theorem.’
    • ‘Ptolemy's Almagest was a complete theory, but it involved applying a different mathematical formula for the motion of each planet and therefore did not really represent an overall unifying system.’
    • ‘A few years before, Albert Einstein in his general theory of relativity had published a mathematical formula for the evolution of the universe.’
    • ‘Her other boarder and a friend spent hours trying to figure out the mathematical formula for solving the puzzle.’
    • ‘He gave the well-known formula for the Fibonacci numbers’
    • ‘Weyl went on to establish a character formula and a dimension formula for his representations.’
    • ‘Use the formula for the Lucas numbers given in terms of the Fibonacci numbers.’
    • ‘For example, he gave an approximate formula for the area and the perimeter of an ellipse.’
    • ‘A more precise estimate of caloric needs can be obtained by using a mathematical formula.’
    • ‘If we think about it a little, we can give a general formula for calculating conditional probabilities.’
    • ‘Jacobi deduced a formula for the approximants in terms of determinants in 1845.’
    • ‘This work also contains the famous sine formula for plane triangles.’
    • ‘Using a mathematical formula, researchers were able to predict around 80 percent of seizures.’
    • ‘We wish to compare the modern formula for curvature with Huygens's expression of ratios.’
    1. 1.1A set of chemical symbols showing the elements present in a compound and their relative proportions.
      • ‘Compound formulae can themselves be elements of larger compounds.’
      • ‘Sodium carbonate is a chemical compound which conforms to the general formula Na 2 CO 3.’
      • ‘Methane has the chemical formula CH 4 and the methyl group is CH 3.’
      • ‘Acetic acid is a clear, colorless liquid with the chemical formula C 2 H 4 O 2.’
      • ‘The actual formula of the ionic compound (and the number of cations and anions) will thus depend on the relative charges of the anion and cation.’
      • ‘Both cyanides and nitriles have the general formula RCN with a triple bond between the carbon and nitrogen (R-CN).’
      • ‘It is an aromatic compound denoted by the chemical formula C 7 H 5 NaO 2 with a molecular weight of 144.11.’
      • ‘The structural formulae of the three compounds are shown in Figure 1.’
      • ‘Nitric oxide (sometimes called nitrogen monoxide) has the chemical formula NO.’
      • ‘Isomers are compounds having the same chemical formula but having different arrangements of atoms.’
      • ‘For example this would give us the formula NaCl for sodium chloride.’
      • ‘The empirical formula of a compound is that which is obtained through laboratory research.’
      • ‘The composition of a mineral is shown by its chemical formula, which states each of the chemical elements present in the mineral as well as the ratios of each element.’
      • ‘While iron oxide in its nonstoichometric form is still represented by the FeO formula, the proportion of its components will deviate from that of the compound in its ideal form.’
      • ‘If a pure element is present the chemical formula is merely the chemical symbol for the element.’
      • ‘If the formula of a compound was important to the student then the name should be a systematic one constructed strictly according to the IUPAC rules on substitutive nomenclature.’
      • ‘Ethyne, or acetylene, has the chemical formula CH 2 CH 2, with a triple bond between the two carbons.’
      • ‘The methyl group is the alkyl group with the chemical formula CH 3.’
  • 2A method or procedure for achieving something.

    ‘the forlorn hope of finding a peace formula’
    • ‘But the party has long accepted the formula of land for peace.’
    • ‘The formula worked, and before long he was picking up regular bookings.’
    • ‘You'll be following the same tried-and-true formula as other successful, long-term businesses.’
    • ‘But Maharishi has come up with a formula for world peace, which he believes can be achieved with large groups of meditators.’
    • ‘He took the lead in prescribing a formula for peace and imposing national reconciliation.’
    • ‘This of course is a formula for nuclear proliferation.’
    • ‘Different ideologies, the Left, the Right and the Centre, have failed to provide a panacea for war and a formula for peace.’
    • ‘"I don't think there is any secret, magic formula for success, " he says.’
    • ‘The Penny Press and the tabloids used the same formulas to achieve unprecedented commercial success.’
    • ‘Meanwhile after five days of intensive effort, the Labour Relations Commission has so far failed to come up with a peace formula.’
    • ‘Myers confesses that his formula works out quite well for his record labels.’
    • ‘Publicity pieces also tended to follow a tried-and-true formula the studios had used for a quarter century.’
    • ‘The peace agreement provides a formula for southern rebels and the government to share political power and the country's oil wealth and other natural resources.’
    • ‘Duncan Kerr would argue that he's not making the removal of a judge any easier, he's just setting out a clear-cut formula or a clear-cut procedure for dealing with a crisis if it emerges.’
    • ‘They appeared concerned, maybe because the magic formula for success remains elusive.’
    • ‘Zingerman's provides a valuable example of a formula for achieving just that.’
    • ‘Hamill's system is a formula for church governance that enshrines caution.’
    • ‘Their winning formula is based on three traits that would serve most companies well: patience, stability and flexibility.’
    • ‘He has tried to figure out different ways to find a winning formula.’
    • ‘There is not one magic formula for success in the boating industry, but many.’
    recipe, prescription, blueprint, plan, method, procedure, technique, system
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    1. 2.1A list of ingredients with which something is made.
      ‘a blend of fifteen whiskies compiled to a secret formula’
      • ‘For example, assume we are Coke and we have a secret formula.’
      • ‘Can he mix those ingredients into a winning formula?’
      • ‘An open formula lists the percentage or amount per ton of all ingredients in the complete feed, premixes, or supplements.’
      • ‘Nobody had the secret formula that turned out to be as simple as 9, 32 and 35.’
      • ‘You would be hard pressed to find a creatine supplement with more direct research supporting its formula and ingredients.’
      • ‘The following is a list of formulas that can be useful.’
      • ‘Think of a screen as a formula or recipe of ingredients used to guide computer software to select a batch of good stock picks.’
      • ‘This leaves one important ingredient missing from the formula.’
      • ‘What they do is scan thousands of other Web pages and, using a secret formula, decide what the top stories are.’
      • ‘But having taken care of 11 children and 2 grandchildren for the past 50 years, the old and wise ones whipped out their secret formula.’
      • ‘A formula for beer, the world's oldest known recipe, is inscribed onto a clay tablet.’
      • ‘But that's what is so refreshing about their approach - they have somehow cracked the secret formula of winning pop, and if that involves a little thievery from their idols, so be it.’
      • ‘Would he be trusted going forward with information about patents and secret formulas?’
      • ‘While most of the formulas emphasize nourishing yin and moistening dryness, two formulas are listed for excess conditions.’
      • ‘Within an amazingly short period of time Ross Hurley and his Great Group of Gritty Gold Miners had extinguished the fire and saved the secret formulas.’
      • ‘The secret formula was discovered while Mr Parker and his colleagues were looking for a way of cleaning up the contaminants on the gold mine site cheaply.’
      • ‘He refused to disclose any further details on his secret formula.’
      • ‘Can he explain the secret formula that enables a select group of men and women to turn a good performance into something memorable and liberating?’
      • ‘He checked the formulas and double-checked the ingredients.’
      • ‘The material is mostly barytes, with traces of diesel oil, surfactants, biocides, heavy metals and other chemicals in the often secret formulas used by well drillers.’
    2. 2.2A formulation.
      ‘an original coal tar formula that helps prevent dandruff’
      • ‘Many yogurts, fermented dairy products, and pill and powder formulas contain live cultures.’
      • ‘Extra strong paint formulas, and wooden fences supported by metal spikes extended the life of exterior fittings in tough New England weather.’
      • ‘The other herbs in the formula are adjusted and dosed according to signs and symptoms.’
      • ‘Liquid formulas and pills containing such herbs as spirulina and milk thistle, chlorophyll, red clover, echinacea and licorice root are ingested.’
      • ‘In fact, this herb is a common ingredient in herbal formulas designed to support both the adrenal and immune systems.’
      • ‘The Chinese sometimes include zhu ling (they use the sclerotium rather than the fruiting body) as an ingredient in herbal tonic formulas.’
      • ‘There are shampoos and formulas available for improving circulation to the scalp, and some people try herbal treatments.’
      • ‘However, one clinic prescribed prepared herbal formulas containing plants of European origin shown in Table 4.’
      • ‘Extra-strength formulas are more convenient when you need more than one regular-strength dose to improve your symptoms.’
      • ‘I was able to find an excellent natural herbal formula by a company in Bangalore, The Himalaya Drug Company.’
      • ‘The flower wax enriched formulas help capture moisture and prevent color from slipping and sliding throughout the day.’
      • ‘You can either shave your head, or you can have a professional use a similar formula with a highlighting method.’
      • ‘Pills, powders, caplets, tablets, tinctures, oils and herb formulas can aid good health, but only if they're supplemental to a good diet.’
      • ‘Experiment with shampoo timing along with products and formulas specifically designed to purify and calm the scalp and provide serious flake fighting.’
      • ‘Stick to powder blushes as well; cream formulas tend to make oily skin look even greasier.’
      • ‘Weight loss products range from pills and powdered formulas to body wraps and other devices.’
      • ‘Additionally, patients were given herbal formulae based on the diagnostic patterns of the disorder.’
      • ‘Avoid anything involving animal droppings and beware of expensive herbal creams and vitamin formulas which are more likely to lighten your wallet than increase your hair count.’
      • ‘This makes it a great ingredient for nighttime fat-loss formulas.’
      • ‘Irritation of the skin or dermatitis can be prevented by using hydrating soap formulas, hand cream, or gloves.’
      preparation, concoction, mixture, compound, creation, substance
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    3. 2.3[mass noun]A baby's liquid food based on cow's milk or soya protein, given as a substitute for breast milk.
      ‘she put two bottles of formula in the fridge’
      • ‘In infants the rash may be mistaken for breast or formula milk.’
      • ‘The health benefits of breast feeding outweigh formula milk by so much.’
      • ‘Conversely, if a mother is feeding her baby formula, she will produce less breastmilk.’
      • ‘You may also like to try baby rice, which can be made up using breast or formula milk.’
      • ‘Soy formulas contain high levels of compounds that mimic oestrogen, which itself is a known immune system suppressor.’
      • ‘However, a paucity of data exists on the long-term effects of infant soy formulas.’
      • ‘Although babies under twelve months should not be given cow's milk without first consulting your doctor, most formula milk is based on cow's milk.’
      • ‘But as the long nights wore on, and my milk supply began to dwindle as Alice's appetite increased, a friend suggested we introduce the forbidden fruit that is formula milk into her diet.’
      • ‘Breast milk or formula milk provides all the nutrition that babies need for the first six months.’
      • ‘Soy-based formulas contain the proteins found in soybeans rather than those found in cow's milk.’
      • ‘Government protocol stated it was prepared to provide the babies with formula milk for six months.’
      • ‘Breast milk alone and standard infant formulas are unable to meet the increased needs.’
      • ‘Campaigners claim breast-feeding is a natural immune booster, is more nutritious than formula milk and leaves babies less vulnerable to allergies and conditions such as asthma.’
      • ‘A favourite is baby rice, which is ground rice with added vitamins and minerals that should be mixed with breast or formula milk or boiled then cooled water.’
      • ‘Bottled water is now given to mothers feeding formula milk to their babies because the scheme water contains dangerously high levels of nitrates.’
      • ‘Those follow-ups continue for up to two years, with the mother being supplied formula milk for her baby.’
      • ‘No one consumes more soy per kilogram of body weight than infants who are fed soy-based formula.’
      • ‘Contrary to popular belief, neither soy milk nor soy infant formula is traditional in Asia.’
      • ‘Infants develop a predilection for the sugar that is present in both breast and formula milk.’
      • ‘If people want to diet until they almost disappear, or smoke cigarettes, or feed their baby on formula milk, or spend every spare minute lying in the blazing sun, that is their prerogative.’
  • 3A set form of words, especially one used in particular contexts or as a conventional usage.

    ‘polite formulas and stock phrases’
    ‘a legal formula’
    • ‘Six EU governments have agreed to accept the men, but talks all last week in Brussels failed to produce a legal formula.’
    • ‘It is full of legal formulas whose meanings are now obscure.’
    • ‘At first, beginners understand little and produce nothing, then gradually they understand individual words, fixed formulas, and disconnected items in speech or text.’
    • ‘His research results didn't give him confidence in the ability of jurors to digest and apply complex legal formulas.’
    • ‘Good manners include taking time to greet people properly, using conventional oral formulas.’
    • ‘Now the student is not learning to repeat the words, or the formulas, or the constructions of Archimedes.’
    • ‘Unless the full formula is regarded as a sole unit, the words of a formula can be subdivided into more than two units.’
    • ‘They cannot be reduced to neat legal formulas, purely objective tests and evidentiary standards.’
    • ‘They were uncomfortable in contexts where formulas were not useful.’
    • ‘Ideas (in the usual sense of the word) are conventional expressions or formulas.’
    • ‘We profess our faith not merely in a formula of words, but rather in the realities to which those words refer.’
    • ‘The challenge for the SPC was to find a formula of words to be introduced into the Development Plan recognising the guidelines while at the same time securing the best result for the county.’
    • ‘The surviving written records for particular cases also follow a simple formula.’
    • ‘The law has to be expressed in words, and some verbal formulas are hedged about with linguistic conventions which do not correspond to moral or social distinctions in responsibility.’
    • ‘A legal formula is likely to devalue that individualism, the very uniqueness we assume such wills are designed to capture.’
    • ‘As a result, the Book of Exodus is brimming with theophanies, legal formulas, songs, and poems.’
    form of words, set expression, phrase, saying, aphorism
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    1. 3.1A rule or style followed mechanically.
      [as modifier] ‘one of those formula tunes’
      • ‘Wal-Mart follows a simple formula every time it opens a new store.’
      • ‘I can't give away the ending, since I recommend the movie, but it doesn't exactly follow the formula of lawyer loses first, then wins.’
      • ‘Most rap still follows the initial formula of rhymed couplets that casually mix full rhyme with assonance.’
      • ‘Up until now, the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series, which is undoubtedly one of the most popular video game franchises to date, has followed a standard formula.’
      • ‘It's a show about cops and criminals, but it doesn't follow any genre formulas.’
      • ‘With more money to invest, SEP could follow a tried-and-tested formula.’
      • ‘The songs rarely follow predictable formulas, falling into one another by means of eerie instrumental transitions.’
      • ‘The campaign is following the standard formula.’
      • ‘They say instead of following the genre's formulas, if they want to understand the film they should instead look at the character's mental state and personalities.’
      • ‘Every episode seemed to be following the same formula, and nobody was an interesting enough character to draw me in week after week.’
      • ‘A committee of 20 acting as an executive is simply a formula gridlock.’
      • ‘It encompasses any kind of writing that doesn't follow formulas and makes readers think and wonder more than answering questions - it allows any subject or plot.’
      • ‘Far from providing a break from run of the mill TV, Big Brother follows the same pat formulas.’
      • ‘Mostly, though, it follows the romcom formula right through to its series of misunderstandings and foregone conclusions.’
      • ‘The trouble with films is that we've come to expect them to follow a basic formula, usually involving all loose endings being tied up and a happy ending.’
      • ‘I hated those English classes and being made to follow a set formula.’
      • ‘It follows recognizable formulas and trades on traditional stereotypes.’
      • ‘And in doing so, we basically have to follow the same formula.’
      • ‘It circumvents the standard formula cat and mouse mechanics to play a more painful and piercing game of liar versus eager listener.’
      • ‘The key to a feel-good movie like this succeeding has very little to do with the overall plot, which must follow certain time-honored formulas.’
      model, example, criterion, standard, basis, point of reference, gauge, norm, guide, scale, guideline, yardstick, touchstone, benchmark, ideal, exemplar, paradigm, canon
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    2. 3.2A stock epithet, phrase, or line repeated for various effects, especially in epic poetry.
      • ‘Mostly they were sung by choirs of trained singers who chanted the texts to flexible formulas that were repeated for each verse.’
      • ‘The abandonment of old formulas and standard melodic procedures is nowhere more evident than in the new rhymed Offices of the 12th century and later.’
      • ‘In such works as the Homeric epics, stock formulas served to maintain the rhythm of the verse and were mnemonically useful for performers and listeners alike.’
  • 4(usually followed by a numeral) a classification of racing car, especially by the engine capacity.

    ‘formula two’
    • ‘Scott passed Barnard on the inside and his years of experience in the V8 formula paid off as he began to open his lead and pick his way through the back markers with consummate skill.’
    • ‘It's the best idea, so we are in favour of considering a formula with a 2.4 V8 in the future, and also to consider how to extend engine life.’


The word formula has two possible plural forms, formulae and formulas. The traditional distinction is that formulas should be used in general writing and formulae in mathematical and scientific contexts, but analysis of the Oxford English Corpus shows that formulas is increasingly the dominant form in both technical and general uses


Early 17th century (in the sense ‘fixed form of words’): from Latin, diminutive of forma shape, mould.