From Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to navigation Jump to search


English Wikipedia has an article on:


From formal +‎ -ism.



formalism (countable and uncountable, plural formalisms)

  1. Strict adherence to a given form of conduct, practice etc.
  2. (computing) One of several alternative computational paradigms for a given theory.
  3. (literature) An approach to interpretation and/or evaluation focused on the (usually linguistic) structure of a literary work rather than on the contexts of its origin or reception.
  4. (music) The tendency to elevate formal above expressive value in music, as in serialism.
  5. (mathematics, physics) A particular mathematical or scientific theory or description of a given state or effect.
    • 2011, Brian Cox, Jeff Forshaw, The Quantum Universe, Allen Lane, published 2011, page 54:
      Heisenberg seems to have been motivated by his intense annoyance that Schrödinger's more intuitive version of quantum theory was more widely accepted than his own, even though both formalisms led to the same results.
  6. (linguistics, computing, mathematics) A formal expression of a grammar; a formal grammar; a set of rules of syntax that, without reference to semantics, determine whether a sequence of symbols is a well-formed sentence in a given formal language.
    • 1986, S. J. L. van Eijndhoven, J. de Graaf, A Mathematical Introduction to Dirac's Formalism[1], Elsevier (North-Holland), page ix:
      Dirac approaches quantum mechanics by means of a so-called symbolic method, the bracket formalism. Although this formalism has a mathematical flavour, in fact, it is based upon bold claims which lack mathematical foundation.
    • 1992, tuart M. Shieber, Constraint-based Grammar Formalisms, The MIT Press, page 51,
      It is this abstraction that justifies considering these methods as characterizing constraint-based formalisms in general, rather than an individual formalism.
  7. (philosophy of mathematics) The ontological view of mathematics as a mere collection of string manipulation rules.

Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]


See also[edit]


Further reading[edit]



Borrowed from French formalisme.


formalism n (uncountable)

  1. formalism