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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.


(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 ?
For no man is such a legalist as the good Secularist.
If creating a new council is overly difficult -- as some legalists have warned -- then, perhaps, we could write an interfaith mandate in the mission order of the Trusteeship Council of the UN which had anyway ran out of trust territories to supervise.
The religious leaders were either narrow legalists like the Pharisees who thought that punctilious observance of the law would bring about the prophesied messianic age, or liberal interpreters like the Sadducces who pandered to popular will and sought power by collaborating with the Roman colonizer.
On the other side are liberal legalists for whom the laws of war are a powerful tool that might someday sterilize military force and turn it into an instrument suitable for humanitarian surgery-war without war crimes, perhaps without tears.
16) When the most natural interpretation of legal sources conflicts with the most desirable result in a particular case, the legalists tend to favor the former while the pragmatists favor the latter.
Contemporary Legalists Association President HE-seyin Bicen said the footage clearly proves that there is a plot designed by Varank against particular media outlets.
31) The Legalists emphasized, since then, that the head of state was endowed with shi, the "mystery of authority", and as such his decisions must always command the respect and obedience of the people.
During the meeting, members of the team were briefed on comments of a number of legalists at the Majlis, as well as their visions on the draft law and amendments, which were referred by the Council of Ministers.
In effect, these alternative avenues and methods for bhikkhuni ordination are not considered viable or orthodox by Thai Buddhist conservatives and legalists or by the Sangha Supreme Council.
48) While a judicial pragmatist is sensitive to the "systemic" effects of a decision, those effects are given unwarranted weight by legalists.