scofflaw

noun scoff·law \ ˈskäf-ˌlȯ , ˈskȯf- \
|Updated on: 31 Jul 2018

Definition of scofflaw

: a contemptuous law violator

scofflaw was our Word of the Day on 12/21/2013. Hear the podcast!

Recent Examples of scofflaw from the Web

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.

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.

First Known Use of scofflaw

1924

in the meaning defined above

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