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90s Slang You Should Know


[ih-lee-guh l] /ɪˈli gəl/
forbidden by law or statute.
contrary to or forbidden by official rules, regulations, etc.:
The referee ruled that it was an illegal forward pass.
Informal: Disparaging and Offensive. illegal alien.
Origin of illegal
From the Medieval Latin word illēgālis, dating back to 1620-30. See il-2, legal
Related forms
illegally, adverb
Can be confused
illegal, illicit (see synonym study at the current entry)
1. unlawful; illegitimate; illicit; unlicensed.
Synonym Study
1, 2. Illegal, unlawful, illegitimate, illicit, criminal can all describe actions not in accord with law. Illegal refers most specifically to violations of statutes or, in organized athletics, codified rules: an illegal seizure of property; an illegal block (in football). Unlawful means not sanctioned by or according to law: an unlawful claim to the inheritance; to take unlawful advantage of the trading situation. Illegitimate means lacking legal or traditional right or rights: an illegitimate child; illegitimate use of privileged knowledge. Illicit, which originally meant simply “not permitted,” now most often applies to matters regulated by law with specific emphasis on the way things are carried out: illicit conversion of property; an illicit attempt to control the market. Criminal most often refers to violation of the statutes of penal as opposed to civil law. All felonies are criminal as are all crimes sometimes punishable by death such as murder, arson, and kidnapping: a criminal act.
Usage note
3. See illegal alien. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for illegal
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • And, generally, the advice of a consul is no justification of an illegal act.

    The Seaman's Friend Richard Henry Dana
  • Strogonoff—though it was a rash and illegal act—offered help.

  • None of the States was thereafter to recognize in any of them a government which had been set up in an illegal fashion.

  • I can see where it's going to be illegal for children not to smoke.

    Pandemic Jesse Franklin Bone
  • We need to resolve the status of the illegal immigrants who are already in our country without animosity and without amnesty.

British Dictionary definitions for illegal


forbidden by law; unlawful; illicit
unauthorized or prohibited by a code of official or accepted rules
a person who has entered or attempted to enter a country illegally
Derived Forms
illegally, adverb
illegality, noun
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 illegal

1620s, from French illégal or directly from Medieval Latin illegalis, from assimilated form of in- "not, opposite of" (see in- (1)) + Latin legalis (see legal). Term illegal immigrant first recorded 1892 in American English (illegal immigration is from 1887).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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