tex·​tu·​al·​ism | \ ˈteks-chə-wə-ˌli-zəm How to pronounce textualism (audio) , -chə-ˌli-zəm \

Definition of textualism

: strict or rigid adherence to a text (such as the text of the Scriptures) specifically, US law : a legal philosophy that laws and legal documents (such as the U.S. Constitution) should be interpreted by considering only the words used in the law or document as they are commonly understood Justice Scalia of the United States Supreme Court has championed an approach called textualism. Scalia and others argue that legislative history should rarely be relevant, in essence advocating sentence meaning over speaker's meaning. To be more exact, textualism claims that it does try to discover the intent of the legislature, but limits this inquiry to the text of the statute itself. — Peter M. Tiersma — compare originalism

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Other Words from textualism

textualist \ ˈteks-​chə-​wə-​list How to pronounce textualist (audio) , -​chə-​list \ adjective
a textualist interpretation
textualist noun, plural textualists
Textualists focus on the meaning of words and eschew more abstract inquiries about the law's purposes. — Marc O. DeGirolami

Examples of textualism in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web This case brought those two core principles to a head, and strict textualism won. Henry Gass, The Christian Science Monitor, "Why Gorsuch upheld civil rights for LGBTQ Americans," 16 June 2020 In trashing that bargain, Hawley also decried the idea that Gorsuch's decision represented originalism and textualism, both of which have been the guiding lights of the conservatives seeking to reclaim the Supreme Court. Nicholas Rowan, Washington Examiner, "Josh Hawley condemns 'legal conservative effort' for betraying religious conservatives," 16 June 2020 During the arguments in October, court watchers paid attention to Justice Neil Gorsuch, who ascribes to the judicial philosophy of originalism and textualism. Melissa Quinn, CBS News, "Trump's imprint on federal courts could be his enduring legacy," 6 Apr. 2020 In addition to using originalism to interpret the Constitution, Gorsuch promotes adoption of its close relative, textualism, to interpret statutes. Leslie Southwick, National Review, "A Republic, If You Can Keep It," 17 Sep. 2019 The outcome may hinge on Justice Gorsuch, who portrayed himself as caught between a commitment to textualism and an aversion to judicial intervention in legislative matters. The Economist, "The Supreme Court asks whether Title VII protects LGBT workers," 8 Oct. 2019 That is supported by a ruling by the champion of textualism, the late Justice Antonin Scalia. The Economist, "SCOTUS grapples with the meaning of sex," 10 Oct. 2019 This approach has variously been referred to as strict construction, original intent, interpretivism, judicial restraint, textualism and originalism. Mark Pulliam, WSJ, "Robert Bork’s Proud Legacy and the Senate’s Shameful One," 31 Aug. 2018 Kavanaugh has historically applied principles of textualism and originalism to cases — legal traditions that advocate for an interpretation of the Constitution based on the meaning that the text would have had at the time it was written. Abigail Simon, Time, "President Trump Picked Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court. Who Is He?," 10 July 2018

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

1847, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for textualism

textual + -ism

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Time Traveler for textualism

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The first known use of textualism was in 1847

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Last Updated

28 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Textualism.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/textualism. Accessed 8 Jul. 2020.

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