scofflaw

play
noun scoff·law \-ˌlȯ\

Definition of scofflaw

  1. :  a contemptuous law violator

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

Did You Know?

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.

1924

First Known Use of scofflaw

1924

Learn More about scofflaw


Seen and Heard

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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!