not lawful; contrary to law; illegal.
born out of wedlock; illegitimate.

Origin of unlawful

First recorded in 1250–1300, unlawful is from the Middle English word unlaweful. See un-1, lawful
Related formsun·law·ful·ly, adverbun·law·ful·ness, noun

Synonyms for unlawful

1. illicit. See illegal. 2. bastard, natural.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for unlawful

Contemporary Examples of unlawful

Historical Examples of unlawful

  • No lawful passion can ever be so bewildering or ecstatic as an unlawful one.


    Thomas Wentworth Higginson

  • An unlawful expedient can not become a permanent condition of government.

  • Yet I respect this marriage of thine, as all Muslims must—for all that in itself it was unlawful.

    The Sea-Hawk

    Raphael Sabatini

  • In Ezra, the Tenth, the ram is offered for a trespass because of an unlawful marriage.

    An Orkney Maid

    Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr

  • And they say, that the military uniforms now introducing, are haram or unlawful.

British Dictionary definitions for unlawful



illicit; immoralunlawful love
an archaic word for illegitimate
Derived Formsunlawfully, adverbunlawfulness, 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 unlawful

c.1300, from un- (1) "not" + lawful. Unlawful assembly is recorded in statutes from late 15c. Related: Unlawfully.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper