Actor and star Grant Gustin, who formerly worked in the famous TV series ‘The Flash’ formally invited all co-actors to his birthday party.

Are you confused about the words formerly and formally in the English language? Both are adverbs and have quite different meanings. Occasionally, you will notice that both can be used in place of each other. For example, ‘He was formerly known as the Flash’ or ‘He was formally known as the Flash’. Here formally can be interpreted as officially, whereas formerly means previously. If you have difficulty in differentiating these terms properly then read the given article to find their correct meanings and everyday usage.

Formerly vs formally – definitions and meanings


The word formerly is used as an adverb to describe how something was previously or in earlier times. Formerly originated from former which means earlier.

Example sentences of formerly

  • Famous Indian actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas has changed her name after marriage. She was formerly known as Priyanka Chopra.

This sentence tells you that the well-known Indian actress Priyanka Chopra changed her name after her marriage and she was previously called Priyanka Chopra.

  • Twilight star Robert Thomas also formerly appeared in the famous series ‘Harry Potter’ in the role of Cedric Diggory.

This sentence is telling that the renowned Twilight star Robert Thomas also previously appeared in another very popular movie series the ‘Harry Potter’ in which he played the role of Cedric Diggory.

  • He was formerly the senate majority leader but right now, he is the minority leader.

This sentence is talking about a senator who was previously the majority leader but currently he is just the minority leader.


Formally is an adverb and it can be used when something is following customs and convention. It can also mean officially or methodical. Formally originated from the word formal which means according to the correct form.

Example sentences of formally

  • The two brothers met very formally and didn’t talk much at the office since they were not on family terms anymore.

The sentence talks about two brothers who were not on family terms, meaning they had somehow revoked their relationship. They met at the office and only talked formally which means very seriously and only about official matters.

  • You can meet the chairman formally first and then in a second and more casual meeting you can inform him your personal issues.

In this sentence a person is being advised that he should first meet the chairman officially and then conduct a second meeting to discuss his private issues since telling him everything on the first meeting would be too sudden.

  • The college principal announced that the musicians’ club will be formally disbanded the following year.

In this sentence the speaker is telling someone that the college principal made an announcement that the musicians’ club will be officially dissolved the following year.

If you’re finding it difficult to remember the difference between formerly and formally then this advice is for you. You should keep their origin in mind. For example, formally comes from formal, meaning official, and formerly comes from former which has something to do with the past. If you keep the root words in mind, you will be able to use them in sentences more accurately.