Also found in: Thesaurus, Legal, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.


1. Overly strict or rigid adherence to the law or to a religious or moral code.
2. A legal term or expression, especially one that is unnecessarily technical.

le′gal·ist n.
le′gal·is′tic adj.
le′gal·is′ti·cal·ly adv.


(Law) strict adherence to the law, esp the stressing of the letter of the law rather than its spirit
ˈlegalist n, adj


(ˈli gəˌlɪz əm)

1. strict adherence to law or prescription, esp. to the letter rather than the spirit.
2. the theological doctrine that salvation is gained through good works.
le′gal•ist, n.
le`gal•is′tic, adj.
le`gal•is′ti•cal•ly, adv.


Theology. 1. the doctrine that salvation is gained through good works.
2. the judging of conduct in terms of strict adherence to precise laws. — legalist, n.legalistic, adj.
See also: Religion
a strict and usually literal adherence to the law. — legalistic, adj.
See also: Law
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Noun1.legalism - strict conformity to the letter of the law rather than its spirit
conformism, conformity - orthodoxy in thoughts and belief
References in classic literature ?
But the case of Prince Michael, as it happened, was complicated by legalism as well as lawlessness.
The concept of legalism derives from Judith Shklar's 1964 book
That was my question as I read this book, but perhaps in Kantian fashion it is what must be the case if the masses are to be constantly reassured that they have a role to play in modern government, even if their will is blunted at every turn by bureaucracies, legalism, and wealth.
This project involved four studies considering the conceptualization and measurement of grace and legalism orientations.
It is also easy to discern how legalism helped to create and sustain the current crisis in terms of episcopal decisions over the last decade.
Based on findings, among the components of the quality of working life, the components of fair payment, opportunities for growth, social affiliation, legalism and the general atmosphere of life are affected by the alienation of teachers' work.
In those circumstances, a story of radical forgiveness was a useful antidote to the prevailing legalism.
The first, "human rights legalism," stems from the Nuremberg Trials and stresses the promotion of law, trials, and individual criminal responsibility in the aftermath of atrocity.
It established legalism over justice, so a known, convicted murderer could spend up to 10 years in the court system before being executed.
Beginning in the 1980s, the High Court of Australia began to shift from a strict legalism philosophy towards a path of greater judicial activism while at the same time undergoing a significant institutional change because of the change in jurisdiction that required litigants to seek special leave to appeal in civil cases, which allowed the Court greater ability to select the cases it wanted to hear.
Legalism replaces the direct action of strikes or other challenges to the rule of capital.
Thirdly, Iran's contemporary history has witnessed the trend of political pluralism as reflected in the rising middle class and the practice of legalism, inclusiveness and consensus building.