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 Cox, who had a prior felony conviction, was sentenced after pleading guilty to unlawful possession of a firearm. Tim Evans, Indianapolis Star, "Despite COVID-19 concerns, Indiana's Caviar King denied release from federal prison," 6 May 2020 Officer John Rozell was charged with assault by strangulation/impeding breath and unlawful restraint, the department said. Dallas News, "Dallas police officer arrested, charged with assault by strangulation," 24 Apr. 2020 Aguilera-Limon and passenger Luis Fernando Herrera-Limon were booked into the Josephine County Jail on suspicion of unlawful possession of cocaine, identity theft and money laundering, the state police said. oregonlive, "$62K, 17 grams of cocaine seized in S. Oregon traffic stop; 2 men arrested," 23 Apr. 2020 The warrant was associated with charges of domestic violence and unlawful restraint. Joseph Clark, cleveland, "Woman hands over items to lost and found, is arrested on warrant: Olmsted Township Police Blotter," 19 Mar. 2020 But, in February, a panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals vindicated Trump by holding that courts don’t have the constitutional power to address Congress’s complaint, even if flouting congressional orders is unlawful. Jeannie Suk Gersen, The New Yorker, "The Supreme Court Confronts Trump’s Challenge to the Separation of Powers," 2 May 2020 The driver was reportedly arrested for unlawful flight from law enforcement, DUI, and possession of drug paraphernalia and criminal damage; no one was hurt. Aarian Marshall, Wired, "Drone Deliveries, Food Supplies, and More Car News This Week," 26 Apr. 2020 Frederick McGowan, 59, was arrested without incident just after 9 p.m. Thursday in Frankfort on a federal charge of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution, according to FBI Louisville. Billy Kobin, The Courier-Journal, "FBI Louisville agents and Frankfort police arrest man wanted on Los Angeles murder," 24 Apr. 2020 Music’s criminal history includes past convictions of felony unlawful driving or taking of a vehicle in December 2018, second-degree burglary in 2013, and second-degree burglary in 2012, the Mercury News reported. Dominick Mastrangelo, Washington Examiner, "Pair of inmates released under California coronavirus emergency order arrested for carjacking, setting fires," 23 Apr. 2020

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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Time Traveler for unlawful

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for unlawful

Last Updated

20 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Unlawful.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/unlawful. Accessed 27 May. 2020.

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More Definitions for unlawful


How to pronounce unlawful (audio)

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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