law

noun
\ ˈlȯ How to pronounce law (audio) \
plural laws

Definition of law

 (Entry 1 of 6)

1a(1) : a binding custom or practice of a community : a rule of conduct or action prescribed (see prescribe sense 1a) or formally recognized as binding or enforced by a controlling authority
(2) : the whole body of such customs, practices, or rules The courts exist to uphold, interpret, and apply the law.
(3) : common law
b(1) : the control brought about by the existence or enforcement of such law The Indian government is believed to have detained thousands of other people last year … . The government said the move, decried by critics as draconian, was necessary to maintain law and public order in the region.BBC.com — see also law and order
(2) : the action of laws considered as a means of redressing wrongs also : litigation developed the habit of going to law over the slightest provocation — H. A. Overstreet
(3) : the agency of or an agent of established law When he saw that the fighting was escalating, he called in the law.
c : a rule or order that it is advisable or obligatory to observe a law of self-preservation
d : something compatible with or enforceable by established law The decrees were judged not to be law and were therefore rescinded.
e : control, authority The child submits to no law.
2a often capitalized : the revelation of the will of God set forth in the Old Testament
b capitalized : the first part of the Jewish scriptures : pentateuch, torah — see Bible Table
3 : a rule of construction or procedure the laws of poetry
4 : the whole body of laws relating to one subject criminal law probate law
5a : the legal profession studied for a career in law
b : law as a department of knowledge : jurisprudence
c : legal knowledge a man with much history but little law
6a : a statement of an order or relation of phenomena that so far as is known is invariable under the given conditions a law of thermodynamics Boyle's law
b : a general relation proved or assumed to hold between mathematical or logical expressions
at law
: under or within the provisions of the law enforceable at law

law

verb
lawed; lawing; laws

Definition of law (Entry 2 of 6)

transitive verb

chiefly dialectal : to sue or prosecute at law

Law

biographical name (1)
\ ˈlȯ How to pronounce Law (audio) \

Definition of Law (Entry 3 of 6)

(Andrew) Bon*ar \ ˈbä-​nər How to pronounce Law (audio) \ 1858–1923 British (Canadian-born) statesman

Law

biographical name (2)

Definition of Law (Entry 4 of 6)

Edward 1750–1818 1st Baron Ellenborough \ ˈe-​lən-​ˌbər-​ə How to pronounce Law (audio) , -​ˌbə-​rə , -​brə \ English jurist

Law

biographical name (3)

Definition of Law (Entry 5 of 6)

John 1671–1729 Scottish financier and speculator

Law

biographical name (4)

Definition of Law (Entry 6 of 6)

William 1686–1761 English writer

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Choose the Right Synonym for law

Noun

law, rule, regulation, precept, statute, ordinance, canon mean a principle governing action or procedure. law implies imposition by a sovereign authority and the obligation of obedience on the part of all subject to that authority. obey the law rule applies to more restricted or specific situations. the rules of the game regulation implies prescription by authority in order to control an organization or system. regulations affecting nuclear power plants precept commonly suggests something advisory and not obligatory communicated typically through teaching. the precepts of effective writing statute implies a law enacted by a legislative body. a statute requiring the use of seat belts ordinance applies to an order governing some detail of procedure or conduct enforced by a limited authority such as a municipality. a city ordinance canon suggests in nonreligious use a principle or rule of behavior or procedure commonly accepted as a valid guide. the canons of good taste

synonyms see in addition hypothesis

Examples of law in a Sentence

Noun The courts exist to uphold, interpret, and apply the law. a lawyer who specializes in criminal law In our civics class we learned how a bill becomes a law. She has proposed a new law to protect people from being evicted unfairly. Schools are required by law to provide a safe learning environment. The bill will become law at the beginning of the year. He's been in and out of trouble with the law for the last 10 years.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Ted Sampsell-Jones, a law professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota, said Baker’s testimony might raise a reasonable doubt about cause of death, but that the legal standard for establishing causation is quite low. Anchorage Daily News, "Prosecution case nears end in ex-cop’s trial in Floyd death," 12 Apr. 2021 Many Americans have tons of questions about their stimulus checks, taxes and unemployment aid after the American Rescue Plan became law. Jessica Menton, USA TODAY, "Stimulus check update: When will ‘plus-up’ payments arrive? Answers to your COVID relief questions," 10 Apr. 2021 The two trials of comedian Bill Cosby illustrate the power of prior allegations to persuade a jury, said Wesley Oliver, a law professor at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. Rachel Swan, San Francisco Chronicle, "Dominic Foppoli is under investigation over sexual assault allegations. But can he be charged?," 10 Apr. 2021 Yale Law School professor Cristina Rodriguez and New York University law professor and former White House counsel Bob Bauer will co-lead the commission. Katherine Doyle, Washington Examiner, "Biden ordering commission to study expanding Supreme Court," 9 Apr. 2021 The higher reimbursement called for in those bills later became law, wrapped into a larger COVID-19 relief bill. Liz Kowalczyk, Sarah L. Ryley, Mark Arsenault, STAT, "Boston’s hospital chiefs moonlight on corporate boards at rates far beyond the national level," 9 Apr. 2021 Ramos, the law professor studying the funding rules, says that there could have been instances of deceit in 2020, but noted that fraud could also take other forms. Luiz Romero, CNN, "Why did thousands of Brazilian politicians change their race?," 9 Apr. 2021 To be sure, neither of these proposals are guaranteed to become law. Next Avenue, Forbes, "How Estate Tax Changes Could Affect You And Your Family," 9 Apr. 2021 Long's attorney, Duke University law professor Jamie Lau, said the amount is inadequate for people who were imprisoned for decades. CBS News, "Freed inmate who served almost 44 years for rape he didn't commit says $750,000 he got in compensation is far from enough," 9 Apr. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'law.' 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 law

Noun

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a(1)

Verb

circa 1550, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense

History and Etymology for law

Noun and Verb

Middle English, from Old English lagu, of Scandinavian origin; akin to Old Norse lǫg law; akin to Old English licgan to lie — more at lie

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Time Traveler for law

Time Traveler

The first known use of law was before the 12th century

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Statistics for law

Last Updated

14 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Law.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/law. Accessed 19 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for law

law

noun

English Language Learners Definition of law

: the whole system or set of rules made by the government of a town, state, country, etc.
: a particular kind of law
: a rule made by the government of a town, state, country, etc.

law

noun
\ ˈlȯ How to pronounce law (audio) \

Kids Definition of law

1 : a rule of conduct or action that a nation or a group of people agrees to follow
2 : a whole collection of established rules the law of the land
3 : a rule or principle that always works the same way under the same conditions the law of gravity
4 : a bill passed by a legislature
6 : the profession of a lawyer

law

noun
\ ˈlȯ How to pronounce law (audio) \

Medical Definition of law

: a statement of order or relation holding for certain phenomena that so far as is known is invariable under the given conditions

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law

noun
\ ˈlȯ How to pronounce law (audio) \

Legal Definition of law

1 : a rule of conduct or action prescribed or formally recognized as binding or enforced by a controlling authority: as
a : a command or provision enacted by a legislature — see also statute sense 1
b : something (as a judicial decision) authoritatively accorded binding or controlling effect in the administration of justice that case is no longer the law of this circuit
2a : a body of laws the law of a state broadly : laws and justice considered as a general and established entity the law looks with disfavor on restraints on alienation
b : common law — compare equity sense 2
3a : the control or authority of the law maintain law and order
b : one or more agents or agencies involved in enforcing laws
c : the application of a law or laws as distinct from considerations of fact an error of law — see also issue of law at issue, matter of law at matter, question of law at question sense 2
4 : the whole body of laws and doctrines relating to one subject contract law the law of attractive nuisance
5a : the legal profession practice law
b : the nature, use, and effects of laws and legal systems as an area of knowledge or society the politics of law — compare jurisprudence
at law
: under or within the provisions of the law especially as opposed to equity a remedy at law

History and Etymology for law

Old English lagu, of Scandinavian origin

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More from Merriam-Webster on law

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for law

Nglish: Translation of law for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of law for Arabic Speakers

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