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

Mears was arrested and charged with two felonies — aggravated burglary and assault with a weapon — and charges of criminal mischief, assault, and unlawful restraint, which are all misdemeanors. Josh Magness, sacbee, "She hid in her ex's house — and held a machete while forcing him to have sex, Montana cops say," 26 June 2018 Jared Montgomery faces charges of kidnapping, unlawful restraint, and endangering the welfare of a child, said Capt. Joseph A. Gambardello, Philly.com, "Man suspected in abduction of boy, 2, in Frankford surrenders to police," 26 June 2018 Instead, McKinsey accelerated its unlawful conduct, Alix said. Tiffany Kary, Bloomberg.com, "McKinsey Hid Conflicts to Draw Bankruptcy Work, Alix Says," 9 May 2018 Hofacker is charged with unlawful restraint, a third-degree misdemeanor, but Marko says more charges are expected. Cliff Pinckard, cleveland.com, "Ohio man hog-ties daughter, drags her across parking lot, police say," 8 May 2018 His brother, Kevin Garcia-Boettler, 22, faces charges of being an accessory to murder, desecration of a corpse and unlawful removal of a body. Crimesider Staff, CBS News, "Remains of 2 men found dismembered, chained to cinder blocks in pond," 7 May 2018 Brett's brother, Kevin Garcia-Boettler, 22, faces charges of being an accessory to murder, desecration of a corpse and unlawful removal of a body. Kathleen Joyce, Fox News, "2 black men found dismembered and chained in Oklahoma pond not victims of hate crime, prosecutor says," 4 May 2018 He is charged with aggravated battery, unlawful restraint and mob action. Clifford Ward, Wheaton Glen Ellyn, "July trial set for former Wheaton College football player accused with others of injuring teammate during hazing," 3 May 2018 Hurley said Jackson now faces four counts of unlawful removal of an anti-theft device, and expects Jackson will be arraigned in the near future at East Brookfield District Court. John Hilliard, BostonGlobe.com, "Leicester police say suspect identified with fingerprint left in Play-Doh," 2 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

5 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for unlawful

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

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More Definitions for unlawful



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).


to express warning or disapproval

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