lit·​er·​al·​ism | \ ˈli-t(ə-)rə-ˌli-zəm How to pronounce literalism (audio) \

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 How to pronounce literalist (audio) \ noun
literalistic \ ˌli-​t(ə-​)rə-​ˈli-​stik How to pronounce literalistic (audio) \ 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 As theologists, philosophers, explorers, and mapmakers debated what might lie at the planet’s very top, a picture emerged rooted in mythology, astrology and biblical literalism. David James, Anchorage Daily News, "In ‘North Pole: Nature and Culture,’ grappling with a place beyond time and measure," 3 Aug. 2019 Yet even when the pain of censorship and social death surfaces with such violent literalism, nothing comes of it. Merve Emre, The New York Review of Books, "‘Dismembered, Relocated, Rearranged’," 6 June 2019 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

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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The first known use of literalism was in 1644

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Cite this Entry

“Literalism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Apr. 2020.

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