Definition of literalism in English:



  • 1[mass noun] The interpretation of words in their literal sense.

    ‘biblical literalism’
    • ‘Apparently this symbolises jobs done by women, but with its leaden literalism it misses the point of memorials and just reminds you of housework and faceless drudgery.’
    • ‘The Cartesian represents stasis, lack of change, mechanistic logic, scientism, fundamentalism, literalism, ‘absolute truth’: a world with no potential for change.’
    • ‘Finally, Luther was unwilling to sacrifice political prudence and practicality on the altar of biblical literalism, or to identify Christianity with sectarian withdrawal from the political sphere.’
    • ‘And you don't get points for utilitarianism or literalism.’
    • ‘It was after the revivals of the eighteenth and early nineteenth century in Britain and America - revivals that led to such sects as the Methodists - that a more full-blooded literalism became a major part of the religious scene.’
    • ‘It is not old-fashioned literalism but sound interpretation to read the Code as meaning what it says.’
    • ‘In other words, the trap of language is not language but literalism.’
    • ‘The desire to see the real places in which the fictional Pooh, Rat, Mole, Squirrel Nutkin, and Puck wandered could easily descend into a dreadful literalism.’
    • ‘Religious revivalism sometimes took the form of extreme literalism, often termed fundamentalism.’
    • ‘He encouraged us to escape the prison-gates of literalism and embrace the concept of ‘business common sense’.’
    • ‘What if we risked a dose of literalism and listened again to these sweet words and their implications?’
    • ‘Even the last measure, being ‘close to a powerful spiritual force’ does not necessarily relate to Biblical literalism.’
    • ‘In this context, the relevant principles are that words should be interpreted in the way in which a reasonable commercial person would construe them, and literalism should be resisted in the interpretative process.’
    • ‘He advocated a strict literalism in which the text became the sole source of legitimate authority, and displayed an extreme hostility to intellectualism, mysticism, and any sectarian divisions within Islam.’
    • ‘The interpretation of scripture was polarized between the selective literalism of Calvinism and the more liberal application found within the teachings of Arminius.’
    • ‘It is a tacit endorsement of false precision and superficial literalism in psychiatric assessment.’
    • ‘It has broken free from the literalism of the old black letter lawyers.’
    dogmatism, purism, literalism, formalism
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1Literal representation in literature or art.
      • ‘Although I feel there needs to be more clarity and in some cases less literalism in approaching such political themes, it is definitely positive for artists to begin moving in this direction.’
      • ‘Above it - the phone-photo's mate - is a photograph that, with varying degrees of literalism, illustrates the borrowed tale's theme.’
      • ‘A little naïve in their literalism and earnestness, these works are extremely competent technically.’
      • ‘Maybe I'm missing the point and insisting on a literalism that isn't there.’
      • ‘While that may be so, strictly speaking, Nijinska sought to escape literalism and instead to express deeper choreographic truths through the movement of her ensembles and the dynamism of their body language.’
      • ‘This is literalism well past the point of absurdity - not, let it be said, the poetic absurdity celebrated by the surrealists, but the cynical distortions that inquisitions typically resort to.’