AskDefine | Define formalism

Dictionary Definition



1 the doctrine that formal structure rather than content is what should be represented [ant: imitation]
2 (philosophy) the philosophical theory that formal (logical or mathematical) statements have no meaning but that its symbols (regarded as physical entities) exhibit a form that has useful applications
3 the practice of scrupulous adherence to prescribed or external forms

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. In the context of "computing": One of several alternative computational paradigms for a given theory.
  2. In the context of "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.
  3. In the context of "music": The tendency to elevate formal above expressive value in music, as in Serial music.


  • Croatian: formalizam
  • German: Formalismus

Extensive Definition

Formalism or formalization is the activity or its product which rigorously follows a set/system of rules previously defined and usually known.
It can refer to a set of beliefs in philosophy, art, literature, or music.
formalism in Catalan: Formalisme
formalism in German: Formalismus
formalism in Spanish: Formalismo
formalism in Galician: Formalismo
formalism in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): Formalismo (disambiguation)
formalism in Hebrew: פורמליזם
formalism in Dutch: Formalisme
formalism in Japanese: 形式主義
formalism in Polish: Formalizm
formalism in Portuguese: Formalismo
formalism in Russian: Формализм
formalism in Chinese: 形式主义
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