[ lit-er-uh-liz-uh m ]
/ ˈlɪt ər əˌlɪz əm /


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.

Nearby words

  1. literacy hour,
  2. literacy test,
  3. literae humaniores,
  4. literal,
  5. literal-minded,
  6. literalist,
  7. literality,
  8. literalize,
  9. literally,
  10. literary

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

British Dictionary definitions for literalist


/ (ˈlɪtərəˌlɪzəm) /


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