[ law ]
See synonyms for law on
  1. the principles and regulations established in a community by some authority and applicable to its people, whether in the form of legislation or of custom and policies recognized and enforced by judicial decision.

  2. any written or positive rule or collection of rules prescribed under the authority of the state or nation, as by the people in its constitution.: Compare bylaw, statutory law.

  1. the controlling influence of such rules; the condition of society brought about by their observance: maintaining law and order.

  2. a system or collection of such rules.

  3. the department of knowledge concerned with these rules; jurisprudence: to study law.

  4. the body of such rules concerned with a particular subject or derived from a particular source: commercial law.

  5. an act of the supreme legislative body of a state or nation, as distinguished from the constitution.

  6. the principles applied in the courts of common law, as distinguished from equity.

  7. the profession that deals with law and legal procedure: to practice law.

  8. legal action; litigation: to go to law.

  9. a person, group, or agency acting officially to enforce the law: The law arrived at the scene soon after the alarm went off.

  10. any rule or injunction that must be obeyed: Having a nourishing breakfast was an absolute law in our household.

  11. a rule or principle of proper conduct sanctioned by conscience, concepts of natural justice, or the will of a deity: a moral law.

  12. a rule or manner of behavior that is instinctive or spontaneous: the law of self-preservation.

  13. (in philosophy, science, etc.)

    • a statement of a relation or sequence of phenomena invariable under the same conditions.

    • a mathematical rule.

  14. a principle based on the predictable consequences of an act, condition, etc.: the law of supply and demand.

  15. a rule, principle, or convention regarded as governing the structure or the relationship of an element in the structure of something, as of a language or work of art: the laws of playwriting;the laws of grammar.

  16. a commandment or a revelation from God.

  17. Sometimes Law . a divinely appointed order or system.

  18. the Law. Law of Moses.

  19. the preceptive part of the Bible, especially of the New Testament, in contradistinction to its promises: the law of Christ.

  20. British Sports. an allowance of time or distance given a quarry or competitor in a race, as the head start given a fox before the hounds are set after it.

verb (used with object)
  1. Chiefly Dialect. to sue or prosecute.

  2. British. (formerly) to expeditate (an animal).

Idioms about law

  1. at law. See entry at at law.

  2. be a law to / unto oneself, to follow one's own inclinations, rules of behavior, etc.; act independently or unconventionally, especially without regard for established mores.

  1. lay down the law,

    • to state one's views authoritatively.

    • to give a command in an imperious manner: The manager laid down the law to the workers.

  2. take the law into one's own hands, to administer justice as one sees fit without recourse to the usual law enforcement or legal processes: The townspeople took the law into their own hands before the sheriff took action.

Origin of law

First recorded before 1000; Middle English law(e), lagh(e), Old English lagu, from unattested Old Norse lagu, early plural of lag “layer, stratum, a laying in order, fixed tune, (in collective sense) law”; akin to lay1, lie2

synonym study For law

See theory.

Other words from law

  • law·like, adjective

Words that may be confused with law

Other definitions for law (2 of 5)

[ law ]

adjective, adverb, nounObsolete.
  1. an obsolete variant of low1.

Other definitions for law (3 of 5)

[ law ]

verb (used with or without object), nounObsolete.
  1. an obsolete variant of low2.

Other definitions for law (4 of 5)

[ law ]

interjectionOlder Use.
  1. (used as an exclamation expressing astonishment.)

Origin of law

First recorded in 1580–90; form of lord

Other definitions for Law (5 of 5)

[ law ]

  1. Andrew Bon·ar [bon-er], /ˈbɒn ər/, 1858–1923, English statesman, born in Canada: prime minister 1922–23.

  2. John, 1671–1729, Scottish financier.

  1. William, 1686–1761, English clergyman and devotional writer. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use law in a sentence

  • “But the laws of Poloeland and those of Flatland are different,” said Amalatok, starting another objection.

    The Giant of the North | R.M. Ballantyne
  • Because the universe is governed by laws, and there is no credible instance on record of those laws being suspended.

    God and my Neighbour | Robert Blatchford
  • It is something which takes side in the child's breast with the reasonable governor and the laws which he or she administers.

    Children's Ways | James Sully
  • Gottfried Achenwall, an eminent German lecturer on statistics, history and the laws of nature, died at Gttingen.

  • Since we are to learn by thinking we must at the outset learn the definition of the three Laws of Thinking.

    Assimilative Memory | Marcus Dwight Larrowe (AKA Prof. A. Loisette)

British Dictionary definitions for law (1 of 4)


/ (lɔː) /

  1. a rule or set of rules, enforceable by the courts, regulating the government of a state, the relationship between the organs of government and the subjects of the state, and the relationship or conduct of subjects towards each other

    • a rule or body of rules made by the legislature: See statute law

    • a rule or body of rules made by a municipal or other authority: See bylaw

    • the condition and control enforced by such rules

    • (in combination): lawcourt

  1. a rule of conduct: a law of etiquette

  2. one of a set of rules governing a particular field of activity: the laws of tennis

  3. the law

    • the legal or judicial system

    • the profession or practice of law

    • informal the police or a policeman

  4. a binding force or statement: his word is law

  5. Also called: law of nature a generalization based on a recurring fact or event

  6. the science or knowledge of law; jurisprudence

  7. the principles originating and formerly applied only in courts of common law: Compare equity (def. 3)

  8. a general principle, formula, or rule describing a phenomenon in mathematics, science, philosophy, etc: the laws of thermodynamics

  9. the Law (capital) Judaism

  10. a law unto itself or a law unto himself a person or thing that is outside established laws

  11. go to law to resort to legal proceedings on some matter

  12. lay down the law to speak in an authoritative or dogmatic manner

  13. reading the Law or reading of the Law Judaism that part of the morning service on Sabbaths, festivals, and Mondays and Thursdays during which a passage is read from the Torah scrolls

  14. take the law into one's own hands to ignore or bypass the law when redressing a grievance

Origin of law

Old English lagu, from Scandinavian; compare Icelandic lög (pl) things laid down, law

Other words from law

  • Related adjectives: judicial, jural, juridical, legal

British Dictionary definitions for law (2 of 4)


/ (lɔː) /

  1. Scot a hill, esp one rounded in shape

Origin of law

Old English hlǣw

British Dictionary definitions for law (3 of 4)


/ (lɔː) /

  1. a Scot word for low 1

British Dictionary definitions for Law (4 of 4)


/ (lɔː) /

  1. Andrew Bonar (ˈbɒnə). 1858–1923, British Conservative statesman, born in Canada; prime minister (1922–23)

  2. Denis. born 1940, Scottish footballer; a striker, he played for Manchester United (1962–73) and Scotland (30 goals in 55 games, 1958–74); European Footballer of the Year (1964)

  1. John. 1671–1729, Scottish financier. He founded the first bank in France (1716) and the Mississippi Scheme for the development of Louisiana (1717), which collapsed due to excessive speculation

  2. Jude . born 1972, British film actor, who starred in The Talented Mr Ripley (1999), Cold Mountain (2003), and Sherlock Holmes (2009)

  3. William. 1686–1761, British Anglican divine, best known for A Serious Call to a Holy and Devout Life (1728)

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

Scientific definitions for law


[ ]

  1. A statement that describes invariable relationships among phenomena under a specified set of conditions. Boyle's law, for instance, describes what will happen to the volume of an ideal gas if its pressure changes and its temperature remains the same. The conditions under which some physical laws hold are idealized (for example, there are no ideal gases in the real world), thus some physical laws apply universally but only approximately. See Note at hypothesis.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Other Idioms and Phrases with law


In addition to the idioms beginning with law

  • law and order
  • law of averages
  • law of the jungle
  • law unto oneself

also see:

  • above suspicion (the law)
  • lay down the law
  • letter of the law
  • long arm of the law
  • Murphy's law
  • possession is nine points of the law
  • take the law into one's hands
  • unwritten law

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.