law·​ful | \ ˈlȯ-fəl How to pronounce lawful (audio) \

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 How to pronounce lawfully (audio) \ adverb
lawfulness \ ˈlȯ-​fəl-​nəs How to pronounce lawfulness (audio) \ 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

From 2007 to 2017, the number of lawful immigrants rose to 35.2 million. Grace Segers, CBS News, "Number of Mexican undocumented immigrants has sharply declined since 2007," 12 June 2019 The federal indictment describes Hu as a Chinese citizen living as a lawful permanent resident in Baton Rouge. Beau Evans,, "Coastal restoration scientists arrested on trade-secret theft allegations," 5 June 2019 Federal law also outlaws retaliating against a witness in a federal case by threatening the lawful employment of the witness, Robertson said. Cory Shaffer,, "Legal experts stunned by attorney Roger Synenberg’s ‘astonishingly terrible judgment’ in sending anonymous letter calling Cuyahoga County auditor a ‘snitch’," 5 June 2019 Additionally, employees covered by a union contract or working in a handful of states that prohibit firings for lawful activities might have additional protections. Johnny C. Taylor Jr., USA TODAY, "Ask HR: Can I be fired for attending a protest or speaking up publicly about politics?," 3 July 2018 Imagine if Texas passed a law blocking any voluntary cooperation with federal authorities enforcing gun laws, even to the point of threatening to imprison private citizens who wanted to facilitate lawful federal activities. David French, National Review, "California’s Soft Secession Accelerates," 26 Jan. 2018 What about Sally Yates, the acting attorney general who refused a lawful presidential order? William Mcgurn, WSJ, "Playing the Civility Card," 10 Sep. 2018 But in this case, the deputy exceeded his lawful use of force. Juan A. Lozano, The Seattle Times, "Fired Texas deputy indicted for fatally shooting unarmed man," 25 Oct. 2018 Concord is the only defendant to appear in U.S. court, and has pleaded not guilty to a conspiracy to obstruct lawful functions of the U.S. government through fraud and deceit. Spencer S. Hsu, Washington Post, "Firm in ‘Putin’s chef’ case challenges appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller," 25 June 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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Last Updated

16 Jun 2019

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

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English Language Learners Definition of lawful

: allowed by the law
: according to the law


law·​ful | \ ˈlȯ-fəl How to pronounce lawful (audio) \

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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More from Merriam-Webster on lawful

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with lawful

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for lawful

Spanish Central: Translation of lawful

Nglish: Translation of lawful for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of lawful for Arabic Speakers

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).


incapable of being surmounted or overcome

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