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 textualism (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 Supreme Court grants federal job protections to gay, lesbian, transgender workers Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch, a leading proponent of textualism, asked no questions Tuesday, an unusual occurrence. John Fritze, USA TODAY, 4 May 2021 Dueling definitions of textualism With the withdrawal of the Justice Department in March, an amicus curiae lawyer is now opposing Mr. Terry. Henry Gass, The Christian Science Monitor, 3 May 2021 But that didn't matter, according to Gorsuch's theory of statutory interpretation, known as textualism. Noah Feldman Bloomberg Opinion, Star Tribune, 6 Apr. 2021 The precepts of originalism and textualism reinforce the Straussian focus on foundation texts, the timeless universality of frozen language, and moral dissipation. Peter Hammond Schwartz, The New Republic, 3 Feb. 2021 Justice Scalia championed textualism and originalism, the judicial philosophy that legal interpretation begins and ends with the text of the law and its original meaning. Tod Worner, National Review, 25 Oct. 2020 Her record, both as a judge and in her earlier career as a distinguished law professor at Notre Dame, shows both her profound commitment to Justice Scalia’s principles of textualism and originalism and her stellar ability to implement them. Ed Whelan, National Review, 1 Oct. 2020 More than any president in living memory, President Trump selected nominees for the federal bench based on their commitment to originalism and textualism. Washington Examiner Staff, Washington Examiner, 5 Nov. 2020 What’s the difference between originalism and textualism? Ilan Wurman, The Conversation, 24 Oct. 2020

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

12 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Textualism.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/textualism. Accessed 23 Jun. 2021.

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