Definition of legalism in English:


Line breaks: le¦gal|ism
Pronunciation: /ˈliːg(ə)lɪz(ə)m


[mass noun]
  • 1Excessive adherence to law or formula: this petty legalism encouraged more to flee
    More example sentences
    • The resort to legalism has contributed to the present crisis.
    • Today, democracy is above all about formal legalism - the unconditional adherence to a set of formal rules that guarantee society's antagonisms are fully absorbed into the political arena.
    • Christianity is not, as David implied, about escaping eternal damnation by following pages of strict legalism (which is another very common misconception).
  • 1.1 Theology Adherence to moral law rather than to personal religious faith: stress obedience apart from faith and you produce legalism
    More example sentences
    • There are the two extremes of legalism and antinomianism to avoid.
    • The history of the Church, Coughlin notes, displays periods of both legalism and antinomianism.
    • Yet I think the continued presence of these wrong doctrines has a baleful and divisive influence in Adventism, causing large segments of the denomination to lurch towards legalism and works righteousness.



noun & adjective
More example sentences
  • They are accused of being legalist, obsessive about detail, hypocritical and self-serving.
  • What he notes in his explanation, however, should give all obsessive-compulsive legalists pause.
  • In explaining his conclusion, Dixon, the strict legalist, relied on a broad political and philosophical notion of the rule of law.


Pronunciation: /-ˈlɪstɪk/
More example sentences
  • This insulting, legalistic defense of a policy gone astray is becoming tiresome.
  • Let's work on the problem and not get tied up in legalistic discussions.
  • But there were occasional moments of compelling clarity in the fog of legalistic jargon.


Pronunciation: /-ˈlɪstɪk(ə)li/
More example sentences
  • Saturday's rally reminded me of the dangers of defining free speech legalistically.
  • Now, on the one hand its legal system is administered overly legalistically, as illustrated in the examples above.
  • As with misconduct allegations, there is a preliminary screening process, but the intention is that cases will be treated clinically rather than legalistically.

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