from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Strict, literal adherence to the law or to a particular code, as of religion or morality.
  • n. A legal word, expression, or rule.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A philosophy of focusing on the text of written law to the exclusion of the intent of law, elevating strict adherence to law over justice, mercy, grace and common sense.
  • n. A legal axiom; a statement couched as a proverb expressing a rule of law.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. Strictness, or the doctrine of strictness, in conforming to law.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Strict adherence to law or prescription; belief in the efficacy of adhering strictly to the require ments of the law.
  • n. Specifically In theology, the doctrine that salvation depends on strict observance of the law, as distinguished from the doctrine of salvation through grace; also, the tendency to observe with great strictness the letter of religious law, rather than its spirit.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. strict conformity to the letter of the law rather than its spirit


from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

legal +‎ -ism


  • One definition of legalism is believing that good works, including dressing modestly, will earn salvation.

    18th and 19th Century Country Women

  • I've also been called a legalist and accused of thinking myself better than others (the true definition of legalism is believing that I must do certain things in order to be/stayed saved - which I don't, and wearing dresses wouldn't be one of those things!).

    18th and 19th Century Country Women

  • Another definition of legalism is substituting man-made rules and laws for those written in the Bible.

    18th and 19th Century Country Women

  • I think the debate about legalism is a bogus smoke screen begun by Satan himself.

    New Link

  • All of these uses of the word legalism demonstrate common misunderstandings of this concept.

    Charlottesville Blogs

  • Special bonus opaque legalism, which is noted in the question posed below: Some courts in New England states use the phrase “ppa” in case captions; this means “per prochein ami,” or “by next friend.”

    The Volokh Conspiracy » Prochein Ami:

  • And it is to the genius of Israel that we owe that rigorously logical interpretation of the _axiomata media_ of legalism, which issued in due season in

    What Is and What Might Be A Study of Education in General and Elementary Education in Particular

  • Gays hate Jesus because of fake "christia" n religious legalism, which is not - Photown News

  • Instead of hardening himself and promoting legalism, which is devoid of soul, Moses encouraged his followers above all to cultivate a religion of the heart.

    The Jakarta Post Breaking News

  • The long skirts did not evoke accusations of "legalism," or "you think you are better than me-ism."

    Archive 2009-06-01


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