1. the principles and regulations established in a community by some authority and applicable to its people, whether in the form of legislation or of custom and policies recognized and enforced by judicial decision.
  2. any written or positive rule or collection of rules prescribed under the authority of the state or nation, as by the people in its constitution.Compare bylaw, statute law.
  3. the controlling influence of such rules; the condition of society brought about by their observance: maintaining law and order.
  4. a system or collection of such rules.
  5. the department of knowledge concerned with these rules; jurisprudence: to study law.
  6. the body of such rules concerned with a particular subject or derived from a particular source: commercial law.
  7. an act of the supreme legislative body of a state or nation, as distinguished from the constitution.
  8. the principles applied in the courts of common law, as distinguished from equity.
  9. the profession that deals with law and legal procedure: to practice law.
  10. legal action; litigation: to go to law.
  11. a person, group, or agency acting officially to enforce the law: The law arrived at the scene soon after the alarm went off.
  12. any rule or injunction that must be obeyed: Having a nourishing breakfast was an absolute law in our household.
  13. a rule or principle of proper conduct sanctioned by conscience, concepts of natural justice, or the will of a deity: a moral law.
  14. a rule or manner of behavior that is instinctive or spontaneous: the law of self-preservation.
  15. (in philosophy, science, etc.)
    1. a statement of a relation or sequence of phenomena invariable under the same conditions.
    2. a mathematical rule.
  16. a principle based on the predictable consequences of an act, condition, etc.: the law of supply and demand.
  17. a rule, principle, or convention regarded as governing the structure or the relationship of an element in the structure of something, as of a language or work of art: the laws of playwriting; the laws of grammar.
  18. a commandment or a revelation from God.
  19. (sometimes initial capital letter) a divinely appointed order or system.
  20. the Law. Law of Moses.
  21. the preceptive part of the Bible, especially of the New Testament, in contradistinction to its promises: the law of Christ.
  22. British Sports. an allowance of time or distance given a quarry or competitor in a race, as the head start given a fox before the hounds are set after it.

verb (used with object)

  1. Chiefly Dialect. to sue or prosecute.
  2. British. (formerly) to expeditate (an animal).


  1. be a law to/unto oneself, to follow one’s own inclinations, rules of behavior, etc.; act independently or unconventionally, especially without regard for established mores.
  2. lay down the law,
    1. to state one’s views authoritatively.
    2. to give a command in an imperious manner: The manager laid down the law to the workers.
  3. take the law into one’s own hands, to administer justice as one sees fit without recourse to the usual law enforcement or legal processes: The townspeople took the law into their own hands before the sheriff took action.


  1. Andrew Bonar (ˈbɒnə). 1858–1923, British Conservative statesman, born in Canada; prime minister (1922–23)
  2. 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)
  3. 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
  4. Jude . born 1972, British film actor, who starred in The Talented Mr Ripley (1999), Cold Mountain (2003), and Sherlock Holmes (2009)
  5. William. 1686–1761, British Anglican divine, best known for A Serious Call to a Holy and Devout Life (1728)


  1. a rule or set of rules, enforceable by the courts, regulating the government of a state, the relationship between the organs of government and the subjects of the state, and the relationship or conduct of subjects towards each other
    1. a rule or body of rules made by the legislatureSee statute law
    2. a rule or body of rules made by a municipal or other authoritySee bylaw
    1. the condition and control enforced by such rules
    2. (in combination)lawcourt
  2. a rule of conducta law of etiquette
  3. one of a set of rules governing a particular field of activitythe laws of tennis
  4. the law
    1. the legal or judicial system
    2. the profession or practice of law
    3. informalthe police or a policeman
  5. a binding force or statementhis word is law
  6. Also called: law of nature a generalization based on a recurring fact or event
  7. the science or knowledge of law; jurisprudence
  8. the principles originating and formerly applied only in courts of common lawCompare equity (def. 3)
  9. a general principle, formula, or rule describing a phenomenon in mathematics, science, philosophy, etcthe laws of thermodynamics
  10. the Law (capital) Judaism
    1. short for Law of Moses
    2. the English term for Torah See also Oral Law, Written Law
  11. a law unto itself or a law unto himself a person or thing that is outside established laws
  12. go to law to resort to legal proceedings on some matter
  13. lay down the law to speak in an authoritative or dogmatic manner
  14. reading the Law or reading of the Law Judaism that part of the morning service on Sabbaths, festivals, and Mondays and Thursdays during which a passage is read from the Torah scrolls
  15. take the law into one’s own hands to ignore or bypass the law when redressing a grievance


  1. Scot a hill, esp one rounded in shape


  1. a Scot word for low 1

n.Old English lagu (plural laga, comb. form lah-) “law, ordinance, rule, regulation; district governed by the same laws,” from Old Norse *lagu “law,” collective plural of lag “layer, measure, stroke,” literally “something laid down or fixed,” from Proto-Germanic *lagan “put, lay” (see lay (v.)). Replaced Old English æ and gesetnes, which had the same sense development as law. Cf. also statute, from Latin statuere; German Gesetz “law,” from Old High German gisatzida; Lithuanian istatymas, from istatyti “set up, establish.” In physics, from 1660s. Law and order have been coupled since 1796. n.

  1. A rule of conduct or procedure established by custom, agreement, or authority.
  2. A set of rules or principles for a specific area of a legal system.
  3. A piece of enacted legislation.
  4. A formulation describing a relationship observed to be invariable between or among phenomena for all cases in which the specified conditions are met.
  5. A generalization based on consistent experience or results.

  1. 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.

In addition to the idioms beginning with law

  • law and order
  • law of averages
  • law of the jungle
  • law unto oneself
  • also see:

  • above suspicion (the law)
  • lay down the law
  • letter of the law
  • long arm of the law
  • Murphy’s law
  • possession is nine points of the law
  • take the law into one’s hands
  • unwritten law
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