un·​law·​ful | \ ˌən-ˈlȯ-fəl How to pronounce unlawful (audio) \

Definition of unlawful

1 : not lawful : illegal
2 : not morally right or conventional

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Other Words from unlawful

unlawfully \ ˌən-​ˈlȯ-​f(ə-​)lē How to pronounce unlawfully (audio) \ adverb
unlawfulness \ ˌən-​ˈlȯ-​fəl-​nəs How to pronounce unlawfulness (audio) \ noun

Examples of unlawful in a Sentence

The sale of alcohol to minors is unlawful. it is unlawful to set off fireworks within the city limits

Recent Examples on the Web

The state has also publicized its opioid investigation, seeking information about whether pharmaceutical companies engaged in unlawful activity involving marketing, sales and distribution of opioids. Angela Hart, sacbee, "Are Exxon, Facebook in California's cross hairs? Top cop hints at investigations | The Sacramento Bee," 11 Apr. 2018 By Tuesday night, authorities had obtained a federal warrant for Conditt’s arrest, charging him with unlawful possession and transfer of a destructive device. Andrew Blankstein, NBC News, "Trail to Austin bombing suspect combined high-tech and old-fashioned techniques," 21 Mar. 2018 Victims must not have been engaging in unlawful activity at the time of the crime, and victims’ conduct must not have contributed to the situation that brought about their injuries. Ron Hurtibise, Sun-Sentinel.com, "Here's how Parkland victims can get what Pam Bondi promised to help with expenses," 16 Mar. 2018 Dallas police identified the suspect as Adrian Breedlove, 25, and said he'd been charged with intoxicated manslaughter and unlawful carrying of a weapon. Kathleen Joyce, Fox News, "Dallas officer killed by suspected drunk driver while on funeral escort," 2 Oct. 2018 In a decision announced Wednesday, a 5-to-4 conservative majority determined the executive order to be neither unconstitutional nor unlawful. Cristian Farias, Daily Intelligencer, "It’s Donald Trump’s Supreme Court Now," 26 June 2018 At the time of his arrest, Jackson was already awaiting trial on charges of cocaine possession, being a felon in possession of a firearm, theft of property and unlawful breaking and entering a vehicle. Carol Robinson, AL.com, "Suspect jailed in 2016 murder of man killed over $5 and pair of Jordans," 3 May 2018 Andre Lamar Parker, 25, of the 200 block of Seneca Avenue, was charged Monday with unlawful taking of a motor vehicle and unauthorized removal of property. Erika Butler, The Aegis, "Police blotter," 10 Apr. 2018 IBT Media and its affiliates, successors, assigns, employees, agents, directors, officers and shareholders do not undertake or assume any duty to monitor our site for inappropriate or unlawful content. Newsweek, "Terms of Service," 14 Mar. 2018

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

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Statistics for unlawful

Last Updated

9 Apr 2019

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Time Traveler for unlawful

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

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English Language Learners Definition of unlawful

formal : not allowed by the law


un·​law·​ful | \ ˌən-ˈlȯ-fəl How to pronounce unlawful (audio) \

Kids Definition of unlawful

: not lawful : illegal

Other Words from unlawful

unlawfully \ -​fə-​lē \ adverb



Legal Definition of unlawful

1 : not lawful : not authorized or justified by law
2 : acting contrary to or in defiance of the law an unlawful possessor

Other Words from unlawful

unlawfully adverb
unlawfulness noun

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More from Merriam-Webster on unlawful

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with unlawful

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for unlawful

Spanish Central: Translation of unlawful

Nglish: Translation of unlawful for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of unlawful for Arabic Speakers

Comments on unlawful

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


an enemy or opponent

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