Word of the Day : December 21, 2013

scofflaw

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noun SKAHFF-law

Definition

: 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.


Examples

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



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