the letter of the law


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the letter of the law

The law exactly as it is written, as opposed to a more liberal interpretation. I know he's the mayor's cousin, but we need to stick to the letter of the law so as to not get accused of giving him preferential treatment.
See also: law, letter, of
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

letter of the law

The precise wording rather than the spirit or intent. For example, Since it was the first time he'd broken the rules, the school decided to ignore the letter of the law and just give him a warning . [Late 1500s]
See also: law, letter, of
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

the letter of the law

COMMON The letter of the law is the law's exact meaning rather than the general and more important principles on which it is based. The Home Office stuck to the letter of the law over the definition of dependants. Michael Brower says such transactions violate the spirit, if not the letter, of the law. Note: You usually use this expression to show disapproval.
See also: law, letter, of
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012

the letter of the law

the precise literal interpretation of a rule or instruction (as opposed to its broad intention).
See also: law, letter, of
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

the ˌletter of the ˈlaw

(often disapproving) the exact words of a law or rule rather than its general meaning: They insist on sticking to the letter of the law.
See also: law, letter, of
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017
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References in classic literature ?
Of course, it was a legal crime, of course, the letter of the law was broken and blood was shed.
the letter of the law. It is not enough that one be pious and
Under the letter of the law, it was RIGHT to disallow Leander Dendoncker's goal at Leicester, and deny Gabriel Jesus a winner for Manchester City against Tottenham, because of handball in the build-up.
Then the Department of Justice, the Office of the Solicitor General, the Bureau of Immigration, etc., even Congress, all went into action, and used or misused the letter of the law, in order to accommodate him.
It not only offers a history of atheism in this nation, but examines legal, political, and social injustices, how Christianity is embedded in American governmental processes, and how the pursuit of religious freedom in this nation has lead to circumstances countering the letter of the law. No American concerned about civil liberties, religious freedom, or legal foundations of American politics should be without this thought-provoking survey.
Education Department spokeswoman Rebecca Blessing responded by saying the state is working on the statewide academic standards for the Bible literacy classes and that "it is up to each public school district to ensure the curriculum used in any classes allowed under HB 128 abides with the letter of the law and the tenets established by constitutional law."
"What I will say in terms of the letter of the law, an eagle-eyed official probably notices the encroachment of two Man City players but you don't often get that these days."
"But it was a double touch and the letter of the law clearly states that it doesn't stand.
"We would have to go back, if we were to implement, with strictness, the letter of the law and this would have to be done for everyone; there were, and there are civil servants, government doctors, there were journalists at the state broadcaster and everywhere there are public employees that participated in political parties," he said and concluded: "I say it again, if the legislation is implemented to the letter we would be opening a very big chapter."
Comedically absurd but also introspective, The Ugly challenges dogmatic clinging to the letter of the law.
The letter of the law protects every American citizen from being deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process, including a fair hearing before an impartial judge or jury; yet the court systems and even (especially!) the President of the United States disregarded the law in letter and spirit.
Indeed, they are usually concerned to keep to the letter of the law, due to the nature of the disability.
If those in Congress want the respect and support of their constituents, they must also give the same and allow us to defend ourselves in times of grave danger according to the letter of the law (and the Constitution).
"If you go by the letter of the law it is a sending-off, but if you do letter of the law every single game then you will get six or seven sendings-off a game," Monk said.
Jesus himself directed one of His strongest condemnations to lawyers who failed to look beyond the letter of the law. He reminded the lawyers of his time of God's high expectations of them, and the diminishing likelihood that such expectations would be fulfilled because the experts have replaced the essence of the law (which is love) by their almost mechanical and literal observance of the letter of the law.