scoff·law | \ˈskäf-ˌlȯ, ˈskȯf-\

Definition of scofflaw 

: a contemptuous law violator

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Scofflaw Was Created for a Contest

In 1924, a wealthy Massachusetts Prohibitionist named Delcevare King sponsored a contest in which he asked participants to coin an appropriate word to mean "a lawless drinker." King sought a word that would cast violators of Prohibition laws in a light of shame. Two respondents came up independently with the winning word: scofflaw, formed by combining the verb scoff and the noun law. Henry Dale and Kate Butler, also of Massachusetts, split King’s $200 prize. Improbably, despite some early scoffing from language critics, scofflaw managed to pick up steam in English and expand to a meaning that went beyond its Prohibition roots, referring to one who violates any law, not just laws related to drinking.

Examples of scofflaw in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

People told Byrd, a Weekly Standard reporter, to dump this scofflaw for his crimes against candy. Lisa Gutierrez, kansascity, "Twitter told her to dump boyfriend over how he eats Kit Kats. Then he sweetly proposed," 10 July 2018 Ticket scofflaws again escaped booting of cars for anyone with three or more tickets, as council scrapped that recommendation by the city manager. Sharon Coolidge,, "Cincinnati council members agreed on a budget. Here are the winners and losers.," 25 June 2018 The agency began cracking down on scofflaws in 2017, following years of abuse of the blue placards. Cynthia Hubert, sacbee, "Disabled placard violations soar in California. Here's where scofflaws were targeted," 6 July 2018 Chief Pulec says most are written during the midnight shift when scofflaw parking is easily spotted. Douglas Belkin, WSJ, "Get That Truck Out: A Town’s Pickup Ban Runs Into Blowback," 1 July 2018 Government prosecutors are making use of a federal law called the Hobbs Act to convict beach scofflaws who target tourists. Johnny Diaz,, "Feds clamping down on criminals who target Miami Beach tourists," 14 June 2018 The suit, filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court last week, comes as City Hall officials are grappling with increasing numbers of scofflaw businesses, who by the thousand have failed to pay their local business taxes. Gordon R. Friedman,, "Portland sues historic Roseway Theatre for unpaid taxes," 31 May 2018 That scofflaw legacy was central to London authorities’ initial decision to ban Uber. David Z. Morris, Fortune, "Uber Heads to Court to Save Its London License — And A Whole Lot More," 24 June 2018 Twice, scofflaws tried unsuccessfully to steal the Stanley Cup. Kevin Allen, USA TODAY, "Stanley Cup's long history of worldwide travels," 16 June 2018

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

1924, in the meaning defined above

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The first known use of scofflaw was in 1924

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evasion of direct action or statement

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