legalism

[lee-guh-liz-uhm]
noun
1.
strict adherence, or the principle of strict adherence, to law or prescription, especially to the letter rather than the spirit.
2.
Theology.
a.
the doctrine that salvation is gained through good works.
b.
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.

Origin:
1830–40; legal + -ism

legalist, noun
legalistic, adjective
legalistically, adverb
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
legalism (ˈliːɡəˌlɪzəm)
 
n
strict adherence to the law, esp the stressing of the letter of the law rather than its spirit
 
'legalist
 
n, —adj

legalistic (ˌliːɡəˈlɪstɪk)
 
adj
of, relating to, or exhibiting strict adherence to the law, esp to the letter of the law rather than its spirit
 
legalistically
 
adv

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Etymonline
Word Origin & History

legalistic
1882, from legalist (1640s); see legal + -ist.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Example sentences
Today courts rarely admit brain scans as evidence at trial for both legalistic
  and scientific reasons.
Many contained legalistic language that muddied the decision-making character
  of the consent process.
Blame the administration--and blame our overly legalistic society.
Administrations are what they are in our regulated, legalistic and
  market-centric environment.
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