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  1. allowed or permitted by law; not contrary to law: a lawful enterprise.
  2. recognized or sanctioned by law; legitimate: a lawful marriage; a lawful heir.
  3. appointed or recognized by law; legally qualified: a lawful king.
  4. 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 formslaw·ful·ly, adverblaw·ful·ness, nounpre·law·ful, adjectivepre·law·ful·ly, adverbpre·law·ful·ness, nounqua·si-law·ful, adjectivequa·si-law·ful·ly, adverb

Synonyms for lawful

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1. legal. 2. licit. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for lawful

Contemporary Examples of lawful

Historical Examples of lawful

British Dictionary definitions for lawful


  1. allowed, recognized, or sanctioned by law; legal
Derived Formslawfully, adverblawfulness, 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

Word Origin and History for lawful

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

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper