Definition of law in English:

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Pronunciation: /lô/


1 (often the law) The system of rules that a particular country or community recognizes as regulating the actions of its members and may enforce by the imposition of penalties: they were taken to court for breaking the law a license is required by law [as modifier]: law enforcement
More example sentences
  • Adequate fencing of pools will be achieved only if fencing is both required by law and regulations are enforced.
  • This may be enforced by law, with a clause in the legislation to set up regulation of care providers.
  • We will make a change to see that justice is served and no more lives will be stolen by law enforcement.
1.1An individual rule as part of a system of law: an initiative to tighten up the laws on pornography
More example sentences
  • It is natural that these concepts should underpin the codified laws on equality before the law and fair trials.
  • The law that had to be applied is the law of negligence, in essence, perhaps the laws of evidence.
  • We hear the Greens urging everyone to pass all these laws, knowing that the law is unlikely to be enforced.
1.2Systems of law as a subject of study or as the basis of the legal profession: he was still practicing law [as modifier]: a law firm Compare with jurisprudence.
More example sentences
  • They are not criminologists or law professors who are studying theoretical issues.
  • It is important for students of law to situate the legal doctrine of the EU in its historical and political context.
  • Criminal law is a subject of great complexity which students find both fascinating and frustrating.
the legal profession, the bar
1.3A thing regarded as having the binding force or effect of a formal system of rules: what he said was law
More example sentences
  • So yes, it's your story, and your word is law when it comes to deciding if your vote or the readers’ votes are the deciding ones
  • I guess anything and everything he says is law around here…
  • When I was a kid, what my parents told me was law.
1.4 (the law) informal The police: he’d never been in trouble with the law in his life
More example sentences
  • It doesn't take long before he's in trouble with the law but the police are prepared to do a deal with him.
  • In a previous run-in with the law, police had gunned down Edward several years ago.
1.5Statutory law and the common law. Compare with equity.
Example sentences
  • Common law and statutory rights continue to exist alongside the Convention.
  • Yet often what trial courts apply is common law - law that was made by other judges.
  • The legislature has picked up these words and turned them into statutory law.
1.6A rule defining correct procedure or behavior in a sport: the laws of the game
More example sentences
  • Before long the sports law will be amended to bring about fair play and equality in the voting system.
  • Foul language is a problem for the law makers in every sport.
  • Now out of form strikers and captains who cynically exploit the laws of the game are immune from being dropped.
rule, regulation, principle, convention, instruction, guideline
2A statement of fact, deduced from observation, to the effect that a particular natural or scientific phenomenon always occurs if certain conditions are present: the second law of thermodynamics
More example sentences
  • Neither has the second law of thermodynamics nor the universal law of gravitation.
  • The zeroth law of thermodynamics is commonly expressed as heat flowing from hot to cold objects.
  • What if you could distil your own sharpest observation into a scientific law that would bear your name?
2.1A generalization based on a fact or event perceived to be recurrent: the first law of American corporate life is that dead wood floats
More example sentences
  • What football needs is simply sound management based on the basic laws of the market economy.
  • The patterns I have been discussing in this section are of course generalizations, not iron laws.
  • The other day when I was writing about the fate of mobile applications, I mentioned one of the laws of technology strategy.
3The body of divine commandments as expressed in the Bible or other religious texts.
Example sentences
  • In morals Simon was probably Antinomian, an enemy of Old Testament law.
  • Nowhere in Scripture is the Old Testament law divided into moral/civil and ceremonial.
  • Are Christians to take all the Old Testament law as applying to them?
principle, rule, precept, directive, injunction, commandment, belief, creed, credo, maxim, tenet, doctrine, canon
3.1 (the Law) The Pentateuch as distinct from the other parts of the Hebrew Bible (the Prophets and the Writings).
Example sentences
  • Moses commanded us a Law, even the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob.
  • They would rather kill Jesus than violate the Law - a Law originally intended to help the people of Israel remain inside the covenant with God.
  • The Torah, then, was not merely a Law written in a perishable book, or part of a covenant with the people of Israel.
3.2 (also the Law of Moses) The precepts of the Pentateuch. Compare with Torah.
Example sentences
  • The Talmud and Jewish law describe the mutual obligations of husband and wife.
  • Jewish law requires every Jew to give up his life rather than desecrate the Name of Hashem in public.
  • Instead he follows Jewish law for the Jews to punish them in case of crimes like theft, murders and rape or adultery.



at (or in) law

According to or concerned with the laws of a country: an agreement enforceable at law an attorney-at-law
More example sentences
  • Does the Defendant have any ground at law for preventing the Claimant from obtaining possession?
  • In sum, looking at the course of conduct, I find that there was a waiver at law of the landlord's right to forfeiture.
  • The claimant has to show that the tribunal erred in law in refusing leave.

be a law unto oneself

Behave in a manner that is not conventional or predictable.
Example sentences
  • Developers are a law unto themselves, above the normal laws of community, ruling not only local government, but state and federal governments - a very dangerous situation for us all.
  • In the decades since World War II, as military leaders and monarchs smothered democratic life, the security agencies have become a law unto themselves.
  • She said: ‘They're a law unto themselves and they thought it was amusing I had to give in.’

go to law

Resort to legal action in order to settle a matter.
Example sentences
  • Scrapping no-win no-fee deals where solicitors take up cases which previously would have been settled without going to law.
  • I asked the insurance company not to pay it, but they did because it was cheaper to settle it that way rather than going to law.
  • And it is even more disconcerting if two officers of the council, having gone to law and losing, now pass on the bill for this affair to the rate-payers.

law and order

A situation characterized by respect for and obedience to the rules of a society.
Example sentences
  • One of the first precepts of any civilised society is respect for law and order.
  • For those with no respect or regard for law and order, such rules and laws are irrelevant.
  • To restore and preserve law and order, there will be 10,000 extra police on the streets.

the law of the jungle

see jungle.

lay down the law

Issue instructions to other people in an authoritative or dogmatic way.
Example sentences
  • She'll lay down the law on headline issues and take your calls.
  • He has gone for ground rules rather than laying down the law.
  • In the wake of the elections, media owners have wasted no time in laying down the law to the incoming government, demanding lower business costs and taxes.
be dogmatic, be in charge (of the rules), set the rules, be domineering, be the boss, call the shots

take the law into one's own hands

Punish someone for an offense according to one’s own ideas of justice, especially in an illegal or violent way.
Example sentences
  • Otherwise, people will take the law into their own hands to fight for justice.
  • It would sanction excessive conduct which allowed headstrong, violent people to take the law into their own hands in a way which no civilized society could permit.
  • If anyone, it was they who could have persuaded the justice-seekers to remain calm and not to take the law into their own hands.

take someone to law

Initiate legal proceedings against someone.
Example sentences
  • The Board took them to law and won the first round in the English courts, but the owner challenged that finding in the European Court of Justice.
  • In 1796 Thackeray, together with several other patent ‘pirates'’ were taken to law by Boulton and Watt and, for a while, this engine was stopped.
  • We'd be thrown out of any court in the land if we took them to law.

there's no law against it

informal Used in spoken English to assert that one is doing nothing wrong, especially in response to an actual or implied criticism: I can laugh, can’t I? There’s no law against it
More example sentences
  • Calling electors - of course, there's no law against it.
  • We can still be friends Andi, there's no law against it.
  • I mean, it's perfectly legal, there's no law against it.


Old English lagu, from Old Norse lag 'something laid down or fixed', of Germanic origin and related to lay1.

  • The words legacy (Late Middle English), legal (Late Middle English), legitimate (Late Middle English), and loyal (early 16th century) all descend from Latin lex ‘law’, the source also of law. The phrase law and order is found from the late 16th century. It was Charles Dickens who first said the law is an ass, or rather his character Mr Bumble did in Oliver Twist: ‘“If the law supposes that,” said Mr Bumble…“the law is a ass…a idiot.”’ See also jungle

Words that rhyme with law

abhor, adore, afore, anymore, ashore, awe, bandore, Bangalore, before, boar, Boer, bore, caw, chore, claw, cocksure, comprador, cor, core, corps, craw, Delors, deplore, door, draw, drawer, evermore, explore, flaw, floor, for, forbore, fore, foresaw, forevermore, forswore, four, fourscore, furthermore, Gábor, galore, gnaw, gore, grantor, guarantor, guffaw, hard-core, Haugh, haw, hoar, ignore, implore, Indore, interwar, jaw, Johor, Lahore, lessor, lor, lore, macaw, man-o'-war, maw, mirador, mor, more, mortgagor, Mysore, nevermore, nor, oar, obligor, offshore, onshore, open-jaw, or, ore, outdoor, outwore, paw, poor, pore, pour, rapport, raw, roar, saw, scaur, score, senhor, señor, shaw, ship-to-shore, shop-floor, shore, signor, Singapore, snore, soar, softcore, sore, spore, store, straw, swore, Tagore, tau, taw, thaw, Thor, threescore, tor, tore, torr, trapdoor, tug-of-war, two-by-four, underfloor, underscore, war, warrantor, Waugh, whore, withdraw, wore, yaw, yore, your

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: law

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