[ law ]
/ lɔ /
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verb (used with object)
Chiefly Dialect. to sue or prosecute.
British. (formerly) to expeditate (an animal).
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Idioms about law

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.


law·like, adjective


law , hypothesis, theory (see synonym study at theory)

Other definitions for law (2 of 5)

[ law ]
/ lɔ /

adjective, adverb, noun Obsolete.
an obsolete variant of low1.

Other definitions for law (3 of 5)

[ law ]
/ lɔ /

verb (used with or without object), noun Obsolete.
an obsolete variant of low2.

Other definitions for law (4 of 5)

[ law ]
/ lɔ /

interjection Older Use.
(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 ]
/ lɔ /

Andrew Bon·ar [bon-er], /ˈbɒn ər/, 1858–1923, English statesman, born in Canada: prime minister 1922–23.
John, 1671–1729, Scottish financier.
William, 1686–1761, English clergyman and devotional writer.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What is law?

A law is a rule made by an authority and that must be obeyed.

A law is commonly made by a government, which citizens must follow or face punishment. For example, in most places there are laws about not stealing. If you are caught stealing, you could be fined or put in jail, depending on the law broken and the punishment set up for that law.

Law can be used more broadly to refer to a set of laws, such as all of a nation’s laws. To say murder is against the law is to say that murder is not allowed in the geographic area being referred to, such as a state or country.

Law can also be used to describe the legal field, especially as a career, as in Zola had always dreamed of a career in law, so she studied hard in law school.

In the sciences, a law is an indisputable fact about the way the world and the forces in it work. Such laws explain what happens but do not describe why it happens.

Example: I believe it is against the law to set up security cameras without posting a sign on the door.

Where does law come from?

The first records of the term law come from before the 1000s. It is believed to come from the Old Norse lag, meaning “laying order” or “fixed tune.” A law is established to keep members of a community in order and fixed to a specific way of life that promotes peace or discourages violence.

Although law generally refers to a rule made by a government, it can also be used to refer to any strong rule made by an authority that must be followed. For example, your parents’ house rules might be described as laws if they must be strictly followed. As well, a behavior a person might do instinctively or spontaneously might also be called a law. For example, trying to save your life when you are in danger might be described as the law of self-preservation.

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What are some other forms related to law?

What are some synonyms for law?

What are some words that share a root or word element with law?

What are some words that often get used in discussing law?

How is law used in real life?

Because laws are important to a well-run society, law is commonly used in everyday speech.


Try using law!

Which of the following is NOT a synonym for law?

A. act
B. decree
C. order
D. suggestion

How to use law in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for law (1 of 4)

/ (lɔː) /


Other words from law

Related adjectives: judicial, jural, juridical, legal

Word Origin for law

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

British Dictionary definitions for law (2 of 4)

/ (lɔː) /

Scot a hill, esp one rounded in shape

Word Origin for law

Old English hlǣw

British Dictionary definitions for law (3 of 4)

/ (lɔː) /

a Scot word for low 1

British Dictionary definitions for law (4 of 4)

/ (lɔː) /

Andrew Bonar (ˈbɒnə). 1858–1923, British Conservative statesman, born in Canada; prime minister (1922–23)
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)
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
Jude . born 1972, British film actor, who starred in The Talented Mr Ripley (1999), Cold Mountain (2003), and Sherlock Holmes (2009)
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

[ lô ]

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


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