unwritten law


: law based chiefly on custom rather than legislative enactments

Examples of unwritten law in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web There’s an unwritten law that literary fiction set in the high plains be sturdy and simple — sentences firm as fence posts, commas hammered in as clean as barn nails. Mark Athitakis, Los Angeles Times, 31 May 2024 Tradition intact, with an asterisk The tournament’s unwritten law of pairing the defending Masters champion with the winner of the previous year’s U.S. Amateur remains — with a twist. Bob Spear, Charlotte Observer, 10 Apr. 2024 As with the budget crisis, politicians cannot repeal the unwritten laws of economics. Dan Walters, The Mercury News, 5 Jan. 2024 That’s an unwritten law. Brian Davids, The Hollywood Reporter, 4 Jan. 2023 But the facts of that night were swallowed up by a code of silence, the unwritten law that presumed police officers would shield one another from accountability. New York Times, 19 July 2022 Apparently, the unwritten law also applied to siblings who came along to assist. Greg Daugherty, Smithsonian Magazine, 14 Apr. 2022 Meanwhile, groups like the Ku Klux Klan intimidated and killed black people who challenged the now-unwritten laws of conduct. Erin Blakemore, National Geographic, 5 Feb. 2020 Stoddard notes, disdaining the vagueness of unwritten law based on power. Kyle Smith, National Review, 25 Nov. 2019

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'unwritten law.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1641, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of unwritten law was in 1641

Dictionary Entries Near unwritten law

Cite this Entry

“Unwritten law.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/unwritten%20law. Accessed 20 Jun. 2024.

Legal Definition

unwritten law

un·​writ·​ten law
: law based chiefly on custom rather than legislative enactments
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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