originalism

noun
orig·​i·​nal·​ism | \ ə-ˈri-jə-nə-ˌli-zəm How to pronounce originalism (audio) , -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

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Other Words from originalism

originalist \ ə-​ˈri-​jə-​nə-​list How to pronounce originalist (audio) , -​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

Examples of originalism in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Her confirmation will add another adherent of originalism to the court. Star Tribune, "Readers Write: Trump's diagnosis, COVID exposure, Amy Coney Barrett," 5 Oct. 2020 Given the national conversation about racial injustice, senators could attempt to push Barrett on her originalism, said Case Western Reserve University law professor Jonathan Adler, who hosted the judge last year for a lecture. Nick Penzenstadler, USA TODAY, "We binge-watched 15 hours of Amy Barrett's speeches. Here’s what we learned about her judicial philosophy.," 5 Oct. 2020 Many lower-court judges appointed by Mr. Trump have already rendered decisions in which the influence of originalism is apparent. John O. Mcginnis And Michael B. Rappaport, WSJ, "Trump’s Judges Will Bring America Together," 24 Sep. 2020 Textualism and originalism deal with how people actually use language. Ed Whelan, National Review, "Justice Barrett Would Extend Scalia’s Legacy," 1 Oct. 2020 It’s an approach called originalism, which is one of the bedrock tenets of the Federalist Society. Skyler Swisher, sun-sentinel.com, "Barbara Lagoa’s rise to Trump’s Supreme Court short list showcases conservative Federalist Society’s sway in Florida," 24 Sep. 2020 Barrett has long expressed sympathy with a mode of interpreting the Constitution, called originalism, in which justices try to decipher original meanings of texts in deciding cases. Lisa Mascaro, Zeke Miller And Jonathan Lemire, Houston Chronicle, "Romney OKs voting on court nominee, all but assures approval," 22 Sep. 2020 Barrett has long expressed sympathy with a mode of interpreting the Constitution, called originalism, in which justices try to decipher original meanings of texts in deciding cases. Arkansas Online, "Romney OKs voting on court nominee, all but assures approval," 22 Sep. 2020 Barrett has long expressed sympathy with a mode of interpreting the Constitution called originalism, in which justices try to decipher original meanings of texts in deciding cases. Lisa Mascaro, NOLA.com, "Romney OKs voting on Supreme Court nominee, all but assures approval," 22 Sep. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'originalism.' 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 originalism

1980, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for originalism

original entry 2 + -ism

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The first known use of originalism was in 1980

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Last Updated

16 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Originalism.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/originalism. Accessed 21 Oct. 2020.

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