[ lit-er-uh-liz-uhm ]

  1. adherence to the exact letter or the literal sense, as in translation or interpretation: to interpret the law with uncompromising literalism.

  2. a peculiarity of expression resulting from this: The work is studded with these obtuse literalisms.

  1. 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

Other words from literalism

  • lit·er·al·ist, noun
  • lit·er·al·is·tic, adjective
  • lit·er·al·is·ti·cal·ly, adverb Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use literalism in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for literalism


/ (ˈlɪtərəˌlɪzəm) /

  1. the disposition to take words and statements in their literal sense

  2. literal or realistic portrayal in art or literature

Derived forms of literalism

  • literalist, noun
  • literalistic, adjective
  • literalistically, 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