[lit-er-uh-liz-uh m]


adherence to the exact letter or the literal sense, as in translation or interpretation: to interpret the law with uncompromising literalism.
a peculiarity of expression resulting from this: The work is studded with these obtuse literalisms.
exact representation or portrayal, without idealization, as in art or literature: a literalism more appropriate to journalism than to the novel.

Origin of literalism

First recorded in 1635–45; literal + -ism
Related formslit·er·al·ist, nounlit·er·al·is·tic, adjectivelit·er·al·is·ti·cal·ly, adverb Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for literalist

Contemporary Examples of literalist

Historical Examples of literalist

  • The literalist who started out to find a biblical order for education, as such, would come back from an unrewarded search.

    The Bible and Life

    Edwin Holt Hughes

  • They are fed with the same truths; the literalist unconsciously, the idealist with reflection.

  • Oh, it's 'entertaining' in the largest, literalist, dreariest sense of the word.

    Wives and Daughters

    Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell

  • The literalist, observing that most people talk shop, takes it for granted that they like to talk shop.

  • Especially do we find a very extensive use of symbolism, which has proved a trap into which the literalist has hastened to fall.

British Dictionary definitions for literalist



the disposition to take words and statements in their literal sense
literal or realistic portrayal in art or literature
Derived Formsliteralist, nounliteralistic, adjectiveliteralistically, adverb
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

Word Origin and History for literalist

1640s, from literal + -ist. Related: Literalistic.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper