law·​less | \ ˈlȯ-ləs How to pronounce lawless (audio) \

Definition of lawless

1 : not regulated by or based on law
2a : not restrained or controlled by law : unruly
b : illegal

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Other Words from lawless

lawlessly adverb
lawlessness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for lawless


anarchic (also anarchical), disorderly, lawbreaking, unruly


law-abiding, orderly

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Examples of lawless in a Sentence

the lawless society of the frontier the lawless rioters were destroying everything in sight

Recent Examples on the Web

Most of its pirates are from the poor and lawless Niger Delta region of Nigeria. The Economist, "West Africa has become the world’s piracy hotspot," 3 July 2019 Whereas buccaneers in the Gulf of Guinea and South-East Asia stole cargo, the Somalis seized crews and often the ships themselves, hauling them back to the ungoverned coast of their lawless state. The Economist, "The Gulf of Guinea is now the world’s worst piracy hotspot," 29 June 2019 The story was framed as an instance of lawless youth run amok – an almost unprovoked riot. Chad Painter, The Conversation, "How the New York media covered the Stonewall riots," 19 June 2019 Transferring liability for crimes from lawless criminals to the providers of lawful products would infringe on the basic rights of law-abiding citizens. Krista Kafer, The Denver Post, "Kafer: Rep. Crow’s gun liability law makes a mockery of personal responsibility," 17 June 2019 By creating the region of about four million people, backers hope to narrow the base of support for extremist groups in the region, one of the most lawless in the country. Jake Maxwell Watts, WSJ, "Philippine Towns Blocked From Joining Muslim Self-Rule Region," 15 Feb. 2019 Meanwhile, the book’s table of contents: — Sean Craig (@sdbcraig) April 4, 2018 Goldy doesn’t deal in principled protectionism, opposition to lawless immigration, or capitalist conservatism. Jane Coaston, Vox, "Steve King endorses a bona fide white supremacist for Toronto mayor," 18 Oct. 2018 But there are drawbacks to large-scale use in Colombia’s lawless drug zones: Soldiers need to be deployed to cordon off swaths of coca-producing land from angry farmers or drug traffickers seeking to damage the devices. Juan Forero And, WSJ, "Colombia Tests Drones to Destroy Coca Plants Used for Cocaine," 19 Aug. 2018 Now back to the case that so aroused Mr. Trump’s ire as an instance of lawless, liberal judicial overreach. William A. Galston, WSJ, "Trump Misjudges America’s Courts," 27 Nov. 2018

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

12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Dictionary Entries near lawless


law lamb

law Latin



law list

law lord

Statistics for lawless

Last Updated

16 Jul 2019

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Time Traveler for lawless

The first known use of lawless was in the 12th century

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English Language Learners Definition of lawless

: having no laws
: not obeying the law


law·​less | \ ˈlȯ-ləs How to pronounce lawless (audio) \

Kids Definition of lawless

1 : having no laws : not based on or controlled by law a lawless frontier town
2 : uncontrolled by law : unruly a lawless mob

Other Words from lawless

lawlessness noun



Legal Definition of lawless

1 : not restrained or controlled by law
2 : illegal a lawless act

Other Words from lawless

lawlessly adverb
lawlessness noun

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More from Merriam-Webster on lawless

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with lawless

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for lawless

Spanish Central: Translation of lawless

Nglish: Translation of lawless for Spanish Speakers

Comments on lawless

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


characterized by aphorism

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