: a contemptuous law violator
Did You Know?
In 1924, a wealthy Massachusetts Prohibitionist named Delcevare King sponsored a contest in which he asked participants to coin an appropriate word to mean "a lawless drinker." King sought a word that would cast violators of Prohibition laws in a light of shame. Two respondents came up independently with the winning word: "scofflaw," formed by combining the verb "scoff" and the noun "law." Henry Dale and Kate Butler, also of Massachusetts, split King's $200 prize. Improbably, despite some early scoffing from language critics, "scofflaw" managed to pick up steam in English and expand to a meaning that went beyond its Prohibition roots, referring to one who violates any law, not just laws related to drinking.
The governor's office set up a database listing the names of scofflaws who hadn't paid their traffic fines.
"For the reality of professional cycling in the [Lance] Armstrong years was that just about everyone was a scofflaws, that what Armstrong did was not an attempt to beat the system but rather a willingness to play by the system's demands." - From a film review by Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times, November 8, 2013
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Test Your Memory
What is the meaning of "trumpery," our Word of the Day from November 21? The answer is …
Theme music by Joshua Stamper ©2006 New Jerusalem Music/ASCAP