What is a word meaning something you do with a minimal effort and with no other intention than to satisfy a formal requirement?

For example, if someone named Jurgen had to buy property in Bulgaria in order to meet some kind of business requirement to operate there, but he wanted to operate his business in a rental property, so he bought an unreachable 1000-square-meter parcel of land in the middle of nowhere:

Jurgen's ___ purchase of land was just a way to thumb his nose at the Bulgarian bureaucracy, while still allowing him to open the sporting goods store on schedule.

(Not my real example, but this is the same intent.)

Perfunctory is really really close, but not quite, and it sounds a little pretentious... Somehow the word "token" in its derogatory sense is close, but not quite. The words "spurious" and "fabricated" and "pretense" and "fraudulent" imply illegality, but the example is not illegal, just something to comply with the letter of the law.

Any other suggestions?

  • 1
    Token would fit there, or similar words like minimal, nominal, but none has the full meaning you want. You might have to combine them with contemptuous, contumacious, derisory, and use 2 adjectives.
    – Stuart F
    Nov 19 at 10:48
  • 1
    Not a dupe, because I explicitly do not want "perfunctory".
    – Jason S
    Nov 19 at 18:24
  • 3
    Sounds like the action is pro forma to me. Nov 19 at 18:39
  • 1
    @YosefBaskin OK. So his purchase is compliant with Bulgarian law.
    – Lambie
    Nov 19 at 18:43
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    Duplicate of 'word for going through the motions – doing something because you are supposed to'. Ignore the answer 'perfunctory' and look at other answers (if any). If none meet your requirements, the correct procedure is to offer a 'bounty'. The question there covers this. Nov 19 at 19:08

2 Answers 2


Yosef Baskin gave you a great answer, albeit in a comment. From Merriam-Webster:

pro forma (adj., sense 1): made or carried out in a perfunctory manner or as a formality.

Although the definition includes the word "perfunctory," pro forma has different connotations. It does not necessarily imply boredom, halfheartedness, or lack of thoroughness. It simply suggests that the action was done primarily or solely for the sake of following the rules.


Something you do only as a required action to meet a formal requirement is a...

formality (noun - OED definition 8)
A ceremony; a formal act or observance; a legal, authorized, or customary procedure.

It's often used in the plural...

Let's dispense with the formalities

  • A formality is normally something that is purely a matter of form. For example, some of the formalities that the purchaser needs to satisfy may be that the documents about his purchase of the land be printed on a certain kind of paper, or that they be stamped in some municipal office. Here there is, however, an actual parcel of land that he will end up owning 'for real', and that seems to go beyond pure form.
    – jsw29
    Nov 19 at 21:56
  • But "a formal act or observance ... or customary procedure" is "a matter of form"! The fact that some "mere formalities" occur within the context of significant acts doesn't make any difference. Such formalities could in fact be dispensed with in any given legal procedure, for example, and the legal position would be unaffected. That's why they are "mere formalities"! Nov 19 at 22:15

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