Meaning of LAW in English


law S1 W1 /lɔː $ lɒː/ BrE AmE noun

[ Word Family: noun : ↑ law , ↑ lawyer , ↑ outlaw , ↑ lawfulness , ↑ lawlessness ; verb : ↑ outlaw ; adverb : ↑ lawfully ≠ ↑ unlawfully ; adjective : ↑ lawful ≠ ↑ unlawful ]

[ Language: Old English ; Origin: lagu ]

1 . SYSTEM OF RULES [uncountable] ( also the law ) the whole system of rules that people in a particular country or area must obey:

Elected officials ought to obey the law.

by law

By law, seat belts must be worn by all passengers.

under English/international etc law

This is illegal under English law.

2 . A RULE [countable] a rule that people in a particular country or area must obey:

laws passed by Parliament

under a law

Five people arrested under anti-terrorism laws were released without charge.

law on

European laws on equal opportunities

law against

The laws against drug use were very strict.

3 . law and order a situation in which people respect the law, and crime is controlled by the police, the prison system etc:

We are concerned about the breakdown of law and order in the country.

4 . POLICE the law the police:

I think she may be in trouble with the law.

5 . WHAT ALWAYS HAPPENS [countable] something that always happens in nature or society, or a statement that describes this

law of

the law of supply and demand

the laws of nature

the law of gravity

6 . STUDY/PROFESSION [uncountable] ( also the law ) law as a subject of study, or the profession of being a lawyer:

She’s studying law in London.

7 . SPORT/ACTIVITY [countable] one of the rules which controls a sport or activity:

the laws of football

8 . the law of the jungle

a) the idea that people should only look after themselves and not care about other people if they want to succeed

b) the principle that only the strongest creatures will stay alive

9 . the law of averages the ↑ probability that one result will happen as often as another if you try something often enough:

The law of averages says we’ll win at least once.

10 . be a law unto himself/herself etc to behave in an independent way and not worry about the usual rules of behaviour or what other people do or think:

Boys his age are a law unto themselves.

11 . take the law into your own hands to do something illegal in order to put right something that you think is not fair, for example by violently punishing someone instead of telling the police:

vigilantes who take the law into their own hands

12 . go to law to go to court in order to settle a problem:

the right of consumers to go to law if they need to

13 . be above the law someone who is above the law does not have to obey the law:

Many ministers seem to regard themselves as being above the law.

14 . there’s no law against something spoken used to tell someone who is criticizing you that you are not doing anything wrong

15 . there ought to be a law against something spoken used to say that you do not think something should be accepted or allowed:

There ought to be a law against cutting off power supplies in the middle of February.

16 . sb’s word is law used to say that someone is always obeyed without argument

⇨ ↑ Sod’s law , ⇨ lay down the law at LAY DOWN (3), ⇨ unwritten law at ↑ unwritten

• • •

COLLOCATIONS (for Meanings 1 & 2)

■ verbs

▪ obey the law

Citizens have a duty to obey the law.

▪ break the law (=do something illegal)

Is the company breaking the law?

▪ pass a law

New Jersey passed a law requiring helmets for scooter riders.

▪ become law (=officially be made a law)

For a bill to become law, it must be approved by both Houses of Parliament.

▪ make laws

Part of the function of Parliament is to make laws.

▪ introduce a law

In 1989, a new law was introduced to protect the Polish language.

▪ enforce a law (=make people obey a law)

It is the job of the police to enforce the law.

▪ flout a law (=deliberately disobey a law)

Employers who flout the law should be properly punished.

▪ repeal a law (=officially end a law)

Many people want the law to be repealed.

▪ a law prohibits something (=says that it is not allowed)

The law prohibits possession of these animals.

■ phrases

▪ something is against the law (=it is illegal)

The children knew that shoplifting was against the law.

▪ stay/act within the law (=not do illegal things)

The security forces must act within the law.


▪ strict/tough

the country’s strict anti-tobacco laws

▪ tax/copyright/divorce etc law(s)

an accountant who knows about tax law

▪ criminal law (=laws concerning crimes)

Criminal law contains definitions of such crimes as murder, rape, and robbery.

▪ civil law (=laws concerning disagreements between people, rather than crimes)

The punishment for breaking civil law is usually a fine.

▪ international law (=laws that all countries agree to obey)

Under international law, the countries must respect the treaty.

▪ English/German etc law

This is not an offence under English law.

▪ federal law (=the law of the US, not a particular state)

Under federal law, it is illegal to discriminate against employees because of race or sex.

▪ state law (=the law in a US state)

Under state law it was illegal for any public official to receive gifts worth more than $100.

▪ common law (=laws that have come from customs and the decisions of judges)

In common law, if a house is rented out, it is expected that the house is safe to live in.

▪ case law (=law based on previous court cases)

There is little case law covering this issue.

• • •


▪ rule an instruction that says what people are allowed to do or not allowed to do, for example in a game, school, or company:

the rules of baseball


He disobeyed the school rules.

▪ law an official rule that everyone in a country, city, or state must obey:

It is against the law to carry a concealed weapon.


The law requires motorcyclists to wear helmets.

▪ regulation an official rule or order, which is part of a set of rules made by a government or organization:

the regulations for applying for a passport


building regulations


environmental regulations on air pollution

▪ restriction an official rule that limits what people can do:

new restrictions on immigration


The government is planning to impose regulations on the amount of alcohol you can bring into the country.

▪ guidelines rules or instructions about the best way to do something:

the Department of Health’s guidelines for a healthy diet


guidelines for classroom teachers

▪ code a set of rules that people or organizations agree to obey but are not forced to obey:

The school has a dress code for its students.


the company’s code of conduct

▪ statute formal a law that has been officially approved by a parliament, council etc, and written down:

The statute banned corporal punishment.

▪ ordinance American English a law, made by a city or town, that forbids or restricts an activity:

A local ordinance limited speed in the parks to ten miles an hour.

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English.      Longman - Словарь современного английского языка.