il·​le·​gal | \ (ˌ)i(l)-ˈlē-gəl How to pronounce illegal (audio) \

Definition of illegal

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: not according to or authorized by law : unlawful, illicit also : not sanctioned by official rules (as of a game)



Definition of illegal (Entry 2 of 2)

sometimes disparaging + offensive
: a person who enters or lives in a country without the documentation required for legal entry or residence

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Other Words from illegal


illegality \ ˌi-​li-​ˈga-​lə-​tē How to pronounce illegal (audio) \ noun
illegally \ (ˌ)i(l)-​ˈlē-​gə-​lē How to pronounce illegal (audio) \ adverb

Synonyms & Antonyms for illegal

Synonyms: Adjective

Antonyms: Adjective

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Examples of illegal in a Sentence

Adjective In this state, it is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to drink alcohol. The team was penalized for an illegal play.
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Louisville police say anything that goes into the air or explodes is illegal for average citizens. James Bruggers, The Courier-Journal, "Fireworks may have been a blast, but they sent Louisville pollution levels soaring," 5 July 2017 Official fireworks shows took place over the city, and illegal pyrotechnics lit up the sky everywhere in between. Lisa Beebe, Los Angeles Magazine, "A Soul-Stirring Roundup of Fireworks from the Fourth of July," 5 July 2017 Facebook has been scrutinized for its handling of its users’ data, and social networks face fines in Germany for failing to swiftly take down hate speech and illegal content. Amie Tsang, New York Times, "Uber Is Dealt a Fresh Blow in European Legal Case," 4 July 2017 In the 1950s and 1960s, major city hospitals in the United States admitted as many as 20 to 30 women a day for complications from illegal or self-induced abortions. Cindy Crabb, Teen Vogue, "How Jane Helped 11,000 Women Get Abortions When The Procedure Was Outlawed," 1 July 2017 Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler as a stuck-in-a-rut suburban couple who open an illegal casino to pay for their daughter's college tuition. Owen Gleiberman,, "'The House' review: Will Ferrell, Amy Poehler comedy misses the jackpot," 30 June 2017 They are charged with illegal re-entry into the United States after previous deportation or removal, according to Acting U.S. Attorney Robert O. Posey and U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Special Agent in Charge Ray Parmer. Carol Robinson,, "5 indicted in Alabama for being in U.S. illegally; 1 has already been deported 8 times since 2009," 30 June 2017 Trump later walked back these comments, sort of, saying that instead, doctors should be punished for providing abortions if the procedure were made illegal. Michael Sebastian, Cosmopolitan, "30 Times Donald Trump Has Been Completely Insulting to Women," 29 June 2017 A Helsinki district court on Wednesday ordered the assets of Uber's Finnish country manager be confiscated until police conclude an investigation into whether the U.S. ride-hailing firm operates an illegal taxi service in Finland. Reuters, Fortune, "A Finnish Court Just Seized an Uber Manager’s Assets," 28 June 2017 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun And beyond stripping illegals of Austrian citizenship, Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka of the centrist People’s Party is proposing hefty fines and other punitive measures. George Jahn, The Seattle Times, "Austria cracks down on Turkish citizens with 2 passports," 24 June 2017 Still, undercover illegals have been discovered in the United States as recently as June 2010, when 10 alleged spies were arrested by the FBI in Boston, New York, New Jersey and Arlington, Va. Harrison Smith, Washington Post, "Yuri Drozdov, Soviet spymaster who planted agents across the West, dies at 91," 21 June 2017 Marco stood today, standing on this stage Marco supports legalization and citizenship for 12 million illegals. New York Times, "Transcript of Republican Presidential Debate," 15 Jan. 2016

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'illegal.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of illegal


1538, in the meaning defined above


1939, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for illegal


Middle French or Medieval Latin; Middle French illegal, from Medieval Latin illegalis, from Latin in- + legalis legal

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Time Traveler for illegal

Time Traveler

The first known use of illegal was in 1538

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Statistics for illegal

Cite this Entry

“Illegal.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for illegal



English Language Learners Definition of illegal

: not allowed by the law : not legal
: not allowed by the rules in a game


il·​le·​gal | \ i-ˈlē-gəl How to pronounce illegal (audio) \

Kids Definition of illegal

: not allowed by the laws or rules He was arrested for illegal activities. The team made an illegal play.

Other Words from illegal

illegally \ i-​ˈlē-​gə-​lē \ adverb


il·​le·​gal | \ il-ˈlē-gəl How to pronounce illegal (audio) \

Legal Definition of illegal

: contrary to or in violation of a law : illicit, unlawful an illegal contract

Other Words from illegal

illegally adverb

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Comments on illegal

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