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take the law into one's hands

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Also, take the law into one's own hands. Replace the established authority with one's own, as in While the captain was on shore the sailors took the law into their own hands and sneaked the prisoner off the ship. Generally indicating disapproval of doing something forbidden, this idiom was first recorded in 1606.

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

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