textualism

noun
tex·​tu·​al·​ism | \ˈteks-chə-wə-ˌli-zəm, -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 , -​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

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 Raymond Kethledge of Michigan, 51, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit Pluses: His strong adherence to textualism and originalism, the twin tenets that drove the late Justice Antonin Scalia, pleases conservatives. David Jackson, USA TODAY, "Supreme Court nominee short list features candidates President Trump likes for different reasons," 3 July 2018 Judge Kavanaugh considers textualism to be an important restraint on judges that prevents them from imposing their policy preferences. David B. Rivkin Jr. And Andrew M. Grossman, WSJ, "A Champion of Constitutional Safeguards," 9 July 2018 Kavanaugh has historically applied principles of textualism – judging cases by the strict meaning of the law as-written – and originalism to cases. Abigail Simon, Time, "What to Know About the Potential Nominees President Trump Has Interviewed for the Supreme Court," 3 July 2018 In legalese, it's called originalism, or textualism. CNN, "Trump's originalist, Neil Gorsuch, finds his place," 7 Apr. 2018 This is a man who really cares very deeply about the traditional judicial role, originalism, textualism. WSJ, "Trump Strikes Syria," 10 Apr. 2017 Leo was a close friend of Antonin Scalia, who instilled in him an affinity for the judicial philosophies known as originalism and textualism. Jeffrey Toobin, The New Yorker, "The Conservative Pipeline to the Supreme Court," 7 Apr. 2017

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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The first known use of textualism was in 1847

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