See more synonyms for lax on
adjective, lax·er, lax·est.
  1. not strict or severe; careless or negligent: lax morals; a lax attitude toward discipline.
  2. loose or slack; not tense, rigid, or firm: a lax rope; a lax handshake.
  3. not rigidly exact or precise; vague: lax ideas.
  4. open, loose, or not retentive, as diarrheal bowels.
  5. (of a person) having the bowels unusually loose or open.
  6. open or not compact; having a loosely cohering structure; porous: lax tissue; lax texture.
  7. Phonetics. (of a vowel) articulated with relatively relaxed tongue muscles.Compare tense1(def 4).

Origin of lax

1350–1400; Middle English < Latin laxus loose, slack, wide; akin to languēre to languish; cognate with Old English slæc slack1
Related formslax·ly, adverblax·ness, nouno·ver·lax, adjectiveo·ver·lax·ly, adverbo·ver·lax·ness, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for lax

Contemporary Examples of lax

Historical Examples of lax

  • Their discipline was lax, and many of them had left their posts, and gone off into the town.

  • We are lax, indeed, but possibly that is why we are so kind.

    Tiverton Tales

    Alice Brown

  • If any one imagines that this law is lax, let him keep its commandment one day.

    Essays, First Series

    Ralph Waldo Emerson

  • "A little too lax, also, for the proprieties of English life," added Lady Vyner.

    Luttrell Of Arran

    Charles James Lever

  • Their bodies were so lax that their short weekly promenade to the cemetery exhausted them.


    Stephen French Whitman

British Dictionary definitions for lax


  1. lacking firmness; not strict
  2. lacking precision or definition
  3. not taut
  4. phonetics (of a speech sound) pronounced with little muscular effort and consequently having relatively imprecise accuracy of articulation and little temporal duration. In English the vowel i in bit is lax
  5. (of flower clusters) having loosely arranged parts
Derived Formslaxly, adverblaxity or laxness, noun

Word Origin for lax

C14 (originally used with reference to the bowels): from Latin laxus loose
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 lax

c.1400, "loose" (in reference to bowels), from Latin laxus "wide, loose, open," figuratively "loose, free, wide," from PIE root *(s)leg- "to be slack, be languid" (cf. Greek legein "to leave off, stop," lagos "hare," literally "with drooping ears," lagnos "lustful, lascivious," lagaros "slack, hollow, shrunken;" Latin languere "to be faint, weary," languidis "faint, weak, dull, sluggish, languid"). Of rules, discipline, etc., attested from mid-15c.


"salmon," from Old English leax (see lox).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper