le·​gal·​ism ˈlē-gə-ˌli-zəm How to pronounce legalism (audio)
: strict, literal, or excessive conformity to the law or to a religious or moral code
the institutionalized legalism that restricts free choice
: a legal term or rule

Examples of legalism in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The results in places like Burundi, Iraq, and Rwanda were often short-lived and ultimately led to bloodshed. Avoiding the hard sell will require that liberal states and activists tone down their legalism, moralism, and universalism. Jack Snyder, Foreign Affairs, 21 July 2022 Bad Italy is a land of bureaucracy, legalism, hierarchy, corruption, violence, and present-day economic doldrums, all abetted by irresponsible and self-dealing politicians. Bill Emmott, Foreign Affairs, 1 Nov. 2012 The court’s liberal bent was hardly guaranteed to last; the Warren Court marked a rare, if not unique, departure from the long-running contest for constitutional primacy between progressive politics and conservative legalism. Ian MacDougall, Harper’s Magazine , 28 Sep. 2022 There’s a rough cycle to the fights between progressive politics and conservative legalism. Ian MacDougall, Harper’s Magazine , 28 Sep. 2022 His public presentation of special counsel Robert Mueller's report — which detailed appalling wrongdoing on the president's part — was a master class in partisan spin, blurring the underlying misconduct amid a whirlwind of legalism and misdirection. Star Tribune, 17 Dec. 2020 But does anyone truly think that the public forms its perceptions based on such legalisms and hair-splitting? Nathan L. Kinard, National Review, 6 Feb. 2020 Harris has famously repented of his past legalism, and that makes his departure from the faith particularly poignant. David French, National Review, 29 July 2019 In response, Boeing vice president Austell dismissed the Airbus position as a deceptive legalism. Dominic Gates, The Seattle Times, 9 June 2017 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'legalism.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1871, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of legalism was in 1871

Dictionary Entries Near legalism

Cite this Entry

“Legalism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Mar. 2024.

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