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blue law

any puritanical law that forbids certain practices, especially drinking or working on Sunday, dancing, etc.
Compare sumptuary law.
Origin of blue law
An Americanism dating back to 1775-85 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for blue laws
Historical Examples
  • The villages of New England—the foci of blue laws and Puritanism.

    The Quadroon Mayne Reid
  • And as for the fuchsia, how far it has grown from the blue laws.

  • Philadelphia, blue laws, and no movies on Sundays far off to my right.

    Test Pilot David Goodger (
  • Of this anomaly there are plenty of instances even to-day—the blue laws of Massachusetts, for example.

  • These agents should be licensed by the State as the “blue laws” require the licensing of stock salesmen.

    The Modern Ku Klux Klan Henry Peck Fry
  • We sometime smile over the old joke that the blue laws allowed nothing more cheerful than a walk to the cemetery on Sunday.

    Facts And Fictions Of Life Helen H. Gardener
  • They are desirous of compelling us to submit to laws more iniquitous than ever were the blue laws.

    The Iron Furnace John H. Aughey
  • The blue laws of Connecticut are proverbial for their intermeddling with private life.

  • They want Sunday to be, not a holy day, but a holiday, unhampered by blue laws or religious cant of any kind.

    Heart and Soul Victor Mapes (AKA Maveric Post)
  • These blue laws, as they were called, aimed at establishing an almost theocratic form of government.

British Dictionary definitions for blue laws

blue laws

plural noun
(US, history) a number of repressive puritanical laws of the colonial period, forbidding any secular activity on Sundays
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for blue laws

1781, severe Puritanical code said to have been enacted 18c. in New Haven, Connecticut; of uncertain origin, perhaps from one of the ground senses behind blues, or from notion of coldness. Or perhaps connected to bluestocking in the sense of "puritanically plain or mean" (see bluestocking, which is a different application of the same term; the parliament of 1653 was derisively called the bluestocking parliament). The common explanation that they were written on blue paper is not considered valid; pale blue paper was used for many old U.S. legal documents and there would have been nothing notable about its use in this case.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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blue laws in Culture

blue laws definition

Laws that prohibit certain businesses from opening on Sunday or from selling certain items on that day. Blue laws often apply to bars and to alcohol sales. Originally enacted to allow observation of Sunday as a Sabbath, blue laws have come under attack as violating the separation of church and state. The courts, however, have upheld most blue laws, on the basis that their observance has become secular and promotes Sunday as a day of rest and relaxation.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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