un·law·ful | \ˌən-ˈlȯ-fəl \

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 \ adverb
unlawfulness \ˌən-ˈlȯ-fəl-nəs \ 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

Edgardo Guerrero, 68, was charged with four counts of grand theft, two counts of unlawful practice of law and two counts of immigration consultant services without a bond, according to the California attorney general's office. Sarah Parvini, latimes.com, "Inglewood man pretended to be an attorney and defrauded immigrants, officials say," 23 Mar. 2018 Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Tuesday creation of a new task force focused specifically on targeting opioid manufacturers and distributors, and holding them accountable for unlawful practices. The Washington Post, OregonLive.com, "Justice Department to target opioid manufacturers, distributors in new push to curb deadly epidemic," 27 Feb. 2018 Instead of fulfilling her ethical responsibility to present the facts of the Craig case to the grand jury, Wilson forwarded my office’s correspondence to the UPLC with the false claim that I was engaged in the unlawful practice of law in Texas. Kirsten West Savali, The Root, "Texas Man Fined Less Than $600 for Assaulting 8-Year-Old Black Child," 31 Jan. 2018 Bray, who was jailed for unlawful use of a weapon, was captured shortly afterward. Fox News, "Authorities catch last 2 of 3 men who escaped Illinois jail," 10 July 2018 What should have been a simple parking ticket turned into an attempt at police intimidation, followed by unlawful use of physical force, including being handcuffed and tased, and then unlawfully booked. German Lopez, Vox, "NBA player Sterling Brown sues Milwaukee police over violent arrest," 20 June 2018 Bray was in jail on charges of unlawful use of a weapon and fleeing. Crimesider Staff, CBS News, "Cops: Murder suspect, 2 other inmates bust hole in jail wall to escape," 18 June 2018 Corey Johnson, 21 Gresham Police Department Johnson was arrested on suspicion of attempting to elude, unlawful use of a vehicle and other charges. Jared Gilmour, sacbee, "Thief stole car, abandoned it and fled — until a glowing Lyft sign gave him away, cops say," 4 June 2018 What should have been a simple parking ticket turned into an attempt at police intimidation, followed by the unlawful use of physical force, including being handcuffed and Tased, and then unlawfully booked. Monique Judge, The Root, "Bodycam Footage Shows Milwaukee Police Using Excessive Force Against the NBA’s Sterling Brown for No Reason," 23 May 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

8 Oct 2018

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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

: not allowed by the law


un·law·ful | \ˌən-ˈlȯ-fəl \

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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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).


lying above or upon

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