Originalism is a theory of interpreting legal texts holding that a text in law, especially the U.S. Constitution, should be interpreted as it was understood at the time of its adoption. The original meaning of the constitutional text can be discerned from the most likely ideas of the text by the framers of the Constitution, or inferred from background events, public debates, relevant dictionaries, and other legal documents of that time.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was a well-known proponent of originalism. This view is the opposite of the “living constitutionalism” theory, which asserts that the Constitution is living and can evolve with society, and that the meaning of constitutional texts changes over time.
[Last updated in May of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]