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[law-fuh l] /ˈlɔ fəl/
allowed or permitted by law; not contrary to law:
a lawful enterprise.
recognized or sanctioned by law; legitimate:
a lawful marriage; a lawful heir.
appointed or recognized by law; legally qualified:
a lawful king.
acting or living according to the law; law-abiding:
a lawful man; a lawful community.
Origin of lawful
First recorded in 1250-1300, lawful is from the Middle English word laghful. See law1, -ful
Related forms
lawfully, adverb
lawfulness, noun
prelawful, adjective
prelawfully, adverb
prelawfulness, noun
quasi-lawful, adjective
quasi-lawfully, adverb
1. legal. 2. licit. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for lawfully
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • But a doubt is sometimes entertained, whether stratagem may be lawfully used in war.

  • Can you say that it was lawfully born according to your Christian marriage?

  • And is not this his withal; the conquest of his own brothers, the lawfully acquired possession of all men?

    Obiter Dicta Augustine Birrell
  • Until then no member can be lawfully admitted into either House.

  • I draw the line at anarchists, and would put them all to death if I lawfully could.

  • Well, if they can be easy with an estate that is not lawfully their own, so much the better.

    Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen
British Dictionary definitions for lawfully


allowed, recognized, or sanctioned by law; legal
Derived Forms
lawfully, adverb
lawfulness, 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 lawfully



c.1300, laghful; cf. Old Norse logfullr (see law). Related: Lawfully; lawfulness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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