lit·​er·​al·​ism | \ˈli-t(ə-)rə-ˌli-zəm \

Definition of literalism 

1 : adherence to the explicit substance of an idea or expression biblical literalism

2 : fidelity to observable fact : realism

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Other Words from literalism

literalist \ˈli-​t(ə-​)rə-​list \ noun
literalistic \ˌli-​t(ə-​)rə-​ˈli-​stik \ adjective

Examples of literalism in a Sentence

if audiences ever got the literalism they claim they want in movies, they'd be fast asleep by the second reel

Recent Examples on the Web

Or are the critics making that argument engaged in an absurd form of literalism, refusing to recognize ironic discourse even though it’s been repeatedly pointed out to them? Ezra Klein, Vox, "The problem with Twitter, as shown by the Sarah Jeong fracas," 8 Aug. 2018 Beyond the biblical literalism of allied evangelicals, newly sophisticated ways of attacking environmental sciences arose that appealed to doubt and uncertainty, coins of the scientific realm itself. Christopher Sellers, Vox, "How Republicans came to embrace anti-environmentalism," 6 July 2018 The big- city journalists reported that Darrow had revealed Bryan’s ignorance and the absurdity of his biblical literalism. Time Staff, Time, "The 25 Moments From American History That Matter Right Now," 28 June 2018 At that point, the allusions Aster has so tantalizingly built up disintegrate into graphic gore and on-the-nose literalism. Ann Hornaday, kansascity, "In terrifying ‘Hereditary,’ past horrors haunt a dysfunctional family," 7 June 2018 John McDermott's sets and Les Dickert's lighting, while maintaining the minimalist aesthetic that keeps a cool distance from literalism, are colorful and sprightly. Charles Mcnulty,, "Shakespeare's 'Hamlet' and Shaw's 'Saint Joan': A marathon for four actors, and the audience," 9 Apr. 2018 And both have been criticized by fundamentalist and other more conservative religious thinkers who accuse them of not hewing to the most stringently doctrinaire biblical literalism. Alex Johnson, NBC News, "Billy Graham: A guidestar for preachers, as well as millions of followers," 2 Mar. 2018 Both rejected modernism in favor of Biblical literalism. Sarah Jones, New Republic, "Billy Graham’s Circus Left Him Behind," 22 Feb. 2018 His cooking today forgoes some of its former literalism (those papas a la huancaina are gone) and instead centers on Peruvian cuisine’s core tenets. Patric Kuh, Los Angeles Magazine, "The Food at Rosaliné Is Full of Heart (Yes, Literally) and You Need to Taste It," 29 Sep. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'literalism.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of literalism

1644, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Last Updated

4 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for literalism

The first known use of literalism was in 1644

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