originalism

noun orig·i·nal·ism \ ə-ˈri-jə-nə-ˌli-zəm , -ˈrij-nə- \

Definition of originalism

US law
: a legal philosophy that the words in documents and especially the U.S. Constitution should be interpreted as they were understood at the time they were written
  • Some judges believe the best way to interpret the Constitution … lies in an approach called originalism. The judges who follow this approach look to history to discover what those who wrote the Constitution most likely thought about the content and scope of a constitutional phrase, and they interpret the phrase accordingly.
  • —Stephen Breyer
  • The main point of originalism, which has driven conservative legal theory for a generation, is that the Constitution does not evolve.
  • —Garrett Epps
— compare textualism

originalist

play \ə-ˈri-jə-nə-list, -ˈrij-nə-\ adjective
    • an originalist judge
    • But White does not usually subscribe to the originalist school of interpretation which sacralizes the Founding Fathers and the text of the Constitution as the fount of wisdom.
    • —Rhonda Copelon

originalist

noun, plural originalists
    • Originalists attempt to discern the original meaning of a legal document—most frequently the Constitution.
    • —Marc O. DeGirolami

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Origin and Etymology of originalism


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