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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.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


(Law) strict adherence to the law, esp the stressing of the letter of the law rather than its spirit
ˈlegalist n, adj
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014


(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.
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.


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
-Ologies & -Isms. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Noun1.legalism - strict conformity to the letter of the law rather than its spirit
conformism, conformity - orthodoxy in thoughts and belief
Based on WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection. © 2003-2012 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.
References in classic literature ?
But the case of Prince Michael, as it happened, was complicated by legalism as well as lawlessness.
The problem is one of asymmetric information, and the historic solution in Western states is liberal legalism. There are two points here.
* (1) Western managers tend to use forcing and problem-solving styles more than Asian (including Chinese) managers do; (2) Asian (including Chinese) managers tend to prefer a compromising styles more than their Western counterparts do; (3) Western managers tend to use a legalistic approach more than Chinese managers do; and (4) Asian managers tend to prefer forcing and legalism more than their Chinese counterparts do.
His goal is to determine whether the context of situation better reflects the New Perspective on Paul, covenantal nomism, or the more traditional perspective of legalism. He begins by reviewing the theoretical bases of the New Perspective on Paul, discourse analysis, and systemic functional linguistics, then analyzes Galatians by mode, field, and tenor.
Could this historical understanding of the development of human rights through the biographies of its Jewish founders, who tried time and again to tie the particular with the universal and the political with the legal, shed light on the legalism that characterizes the field today?
One of the significant outcomes of the Second Vatican Council was liberation of the Church from legalism and ritualism.
In many events, Mark describes how Jesus' ministry is met with strong opposition particularly from the Jewish authorities who are locked in their narrow-mindedness and legalism. But Jesus cannot be stopped from carrying out his mission for the poor and the underprivileged.
A defence lawyer for the opposition on Wednesday defended their 'legalism' after Prime Minister Hun Sen slammed them as 'incompetent' and 'unqualified', telling them to listen to and analyse what he said before making statements about a 'bet'.
to 479 B.C.), coupled with Taoism and Legalism and also with newer influences such as Buddhism.
Gravatt argues that we should put off the conventional, humanly preconceived, limiting blindness of human legalism and tradition and explore the concepts from a greater mind whose vision is unlimited.
Mehboob pointed out that since federalism was a delicate compromise between unity and autonomy, there was a need for mature political ability and legalism for the continuity and success of this system.
Missing from this thoughtful and informative book is an assessment of the consequences of the ACLU's conversion to value-free First Amendment legalism. Decoupling the idea of free speech from underlying ideology permitted the Supreme Court to turn the First Amendment into an extremely powerful protection of autonomy.