law·​ful | \ˈlȯ-fəl \

Definition of lawful 

1a : being in harmony with the law a lawful judgment

b : constituted, authorized, or established by law : rightful lawful institutions

2 : law-abiding lawful citizens

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Other Words from lawful

lawfully \ ˈlȯ-​f(ə-​)lē \ adverb
lawfulness \ ˈlȯ-​fəl-​nəs \ noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for lawful


legal, legit [slang], legitimate, licit


illegal, illegitimate, illicit, lawless, unlawful, wrongful

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Choose the Right Synonym for lawful

lawful, legal, legitimate, licit mean being in accordance with law. lawful may apply to conformity with law of any sort (such as natural, divine, common, or canon). the lawful sovereign legal applies to what is sanctioned by law or in conformity with the law, especially as it is written or administered by the courts. legal residents of the state legitimate may apply to a legal right or status but also, in extended use, to a right or status supported by tradition, custom, or accepted standards. a perfectly legitimate question about taxes licit applies to a strict conformity to the provisions of the law and applies especially to what is regulated by law. the licit use of drugs by doctors

Examples of lawful in a Sentence

a lawful search of the property hunting is a lawful activity only if you have the proper license

Recent Examples on the Web

Brnovich found in February that the property-tax break on the Graduate Tempe hotel was lawful, while the city's tax break on the bank office building was less clear. Jerod Macdonald-evoy, azcentral, "Tempe settles with state over improper developer tax breaks," 27 June 2018 For almost a half-century, Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was a potent bulwark against efforts to obstruct Americans’ lawful right to cast a ballot. Matt Ford, The New Republic, "How the Supreme Court Kills Roe v. Wade," 11 July 2018 Farmers who participate in this program and follow the rules are exempt from criminal prosecution, and products made from industrial hemp, including CBD, are lawful. Karen Pilarski, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Six things you might be asking about hemp," 13 July 2018 Rodriguez is a lawful, permanent resident, according to The Times. Joshua Hafner, USA TODAY, "Woman arrested in beating of 91-year-old man reportedly told to 'go back to Mexico'," 11 July 2018 Semiautomatic rifles, like semiautomatic handguns, have not traditionally been banned and are in common use by law-abiding citizens for self-defense in the home, hunting and other lawful uses. Ashby Jones, WSJ, "Judge Brett Kavanaugh: In His Own Words," 9 July 2018 Generally, to apply for naturalization, applicants must be at least 18 years old, be a lawful permanent resident for at least five years with a green card, be able to speak, write and read English, and meet many other eligibility requirements. Jessica Suriano, azcentral, "Mesa to celebrate Fourth of July with fireworks, naturalization ceremony for new citizens," 2 July 2018 Shopping for injunctions The best legal arguments may not be enough to convince Judge Hanen that DACA is lawful, experts say. Henry Gass, The Christian Science Monitor, "With dueling DACA cases, Supreme Court showdown seems inevitable," 4 May 2018 Since her arrest, Coombes has pleaded guilty to manslaughter, preventing a lawful burial and fraud. Ryan W. Miller, USA TODAY, "Daughter kills dad after finding his child porn collection. She buried her secret for 12 years," 13 July 2018

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

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

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Statistics for lawful

Last Updated

3 Nov 2018

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The first known use of lawful was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for lawful



English Language Learners Definition of lawful

: allowed by the law

: according to the law


law·​ful | \ˈlȯ-fəl \

Kids Definition of lawful

1 : permitted by law lawful conduct

2 : recognized by law She's the property's lawful owner.

Other Words from lawful

lawfully \ -​fə-​lē \ adverb



Legal Definition of lawful 

1a : being in harmony with the law a lawful judgment a lawful purpose

b : constituted, authorized, or established by law a lawful duty

2 : law-abiding lawful citizens

Other Words from lawful

lawfully adverb
lawfulness noun

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Comments on lawful

What made you want to look up lawful? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to clear from alleged fault or guilt

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