• synonyms


[lee-guh-liz-uh m]
  1. strict adherence, or the principle of strict adherence, to law or prescription, especially to the letter rather than the spirit.
  2. Theology.
    1. the doctrine that salvation is gained through good works.
    2. the judging of conduct in terms of adherence to precise laws.
  3. (initial capital letter) (in Chinese philosophy) the principles and practices of a school of political theorists advocating strict legal control over all activities, a system of rewards and punishments uniform for all classes, and an absolute monarchy.
Show More

Origin of legalism

First recorded in 1830–40; legal + -ism
Related formsle·gal·ist, nounle·gal·is·tic, adjectivele·gal·is·ti·cal·ly, adverb
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for legalist

Historical Examples of legalist

  • This may be said to be the view of the publicist or legalist.

    The Deaf

    Harry Best

  • The legalist, desiring to exalt law, in reality stultifies it.

  • The legalist teaches that we must surrender earth in order to get heaven.

    Notes on the Book of Genesis

    Charles Henry Mackintosh

  • He was equally far removed from the excesses of the legalist, the pietist, the ascetic, and the enthusiast.

  • What a triumphant answer is here to the legalist on the one side, and the antinomian on the other!

British Dictionary definitions for legalist


  1. strict adherence to the law, esp the stressing of the letter of the law rather than its spirit
Show More
Derived Formslegalist, noun, adjective
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012