Meaning of LAW in English


I. ˈlȯ noun

( -s )

Etymology: Middle English (northern dialect), from Old English hlāw, hlǣw; akin to Old High German hlēo grave mound, Gothic hlaiw tomb, Latin clivus hill, -clinare to incline — more at lean

dialect Britain : a conical hill or mound — usually used in place names

Berwick law

II. noun

( -s )

Usage: often attributive

Etymology: Middle English lawe, from Old English lagu, of Scandinavian origin; akin to Old Norse lög law, plural of lag layer, due place, order; akin to Old English or læg fate, Old Saxon gi lagu, Old High German ur lag fate, Old Norse liggja to lie — more at lie



(1) : a binding custom or practice of a community : a rule or mode of conduct or action that is prescribed or formally recognized as binding by a supreme controlling authority or is made obligatory by a sanction (as an edict, decree, rescript, order, ordinance, statute, resolution, rule, judicial decision, or usage) made, recognized, or enforced by the controlling authority

(2) : the whole body of such customs, practices, or rules constituting the organic rule prescribing the nature and conditions of existence of a state or other organized community

(3) : common law 1,2 — see martial law , military law , private law , public law , roman law


(1) : the control or regulation brought about by the existence or enforcement of such law

preserved law and order in the town

(2) : the action of laws considered as a means of redressing wrongs : trial or remedial justice under or by the laws of the land : judicial remedy ; also : court action : litigation

developed the habit of going to law for the slightest provocation — H.A.Overstreet

(3) : a law enforcement agent or agency

when he found that goods had been stolen he called in the law

put out a guard to watch for the law while they robbed the store


(1) : a rule, order, or injunction that it is advisable or obligatory to follow or observe

a law of self-preservation

(2) : a rule or custom of conduct

taking a walk every evening was one of his personal laws

d. : something consonant or compatible with established law or enforceable by such law

the decrees were judged not to be law and so were rescinded

e. : control , authority

the child submits to no law

f. : a rule or generalization (especially of established law) as opposed to a fact

a question of law , not a question of fact

2. usually capitalized

a. : divine teaching or instruction ; especially : a divine commandment or a revelation of the will of God

b. : the whole body of God's commandments or revelations : the will of God

c. obsolete : a religion or religious system

d. : a religious dispensation

3. : a rule of construction or procedure (as in art, a craft, or games) conforming to the conditions of success : principle

the laws of poetry

the laws of architecture

a law of courtesy

4. : a rule of right living or good conduct especially when conceived as having the sanction of God's will, of conscience or the moral nature, or of natural justice : moral law


a. : the whole body of laws relating to one subject or emanating from one source usually including the writings on them and the judicial proceedings under them

insurance law

criminal law

probate law

— compare adjective law , civil law , commercial law , decisional law , equity , law merchant , statutory law , substantive law

b. : a rule or a body of rules or prescriptions for conduct to be observed in a particular place or under particular circumstances

the law of the house


a. : the legal profession — usually used with the

b. : law as a department of knowledge : legal science : jurisprudence

c. : legal learning or knowledge

a man with much history and letters but little law

7. obsolete : mercy , indulgence

8. : an allowance of time or distance given to a weaker competitor in sports or to a hare or fox before the hounds are released in hunting


a. : a statement of an order or relation of phenomena that so far as is known is invariable under the given conditions

a law of thermodynamics

the laws of chemistry

— often used in combination with the name of the discoverer of the order or relation

Boyle's law

Gresham's law

b. : a relation proved or assumed to be true between or among mathematical expressions

c. : the observed regularity of nature


rule , canon , precept , regulation , ordinance : each of these terms indicates a principle governing action or procedure. law implies issuance and imposition of that principle as binding and obligatory by an ultimate sovereign authority

the laws of our federal government

In physical sciences law suggests a principle or assertion formulated on the basis of conclusive evidence or tests and presumably universally valid

when this formula first dawned on the mind of Newton, it was a scientific conjecture; when it was tested and proved to conform to facts, it became an accepted scientific law — P.E.More

law may refer to that which is written or uncodified but universally accepted

the common law of England

rule , often interchangeable with law in ordinary uses, may be used in more personal, individual, or specific situations with somewhat less inexorability and power implied

so many handsome girls are unmarried, and so many of the other sort wedded, that there is no possibility of establishing a rule — W.M.Thackeray

ritual is not easy compliance with usage; it is strict compliance with detailed and punctilious rule — W.G.Sumner

the rules of stud poker are drawn up to accord with the laws of chance

canon in nonreligious use may suggest a principle of treatment or judgment in intellectual and creative activities that is generally accepted as a valid guide or test

the Aristotelian canon that the “nature” of a thing must be sought in its completed development, its final form — W.R.Inge

prefer the particular to the general, the definite to the vague — as a canon of rhetoric — A.T.Quiller-Couch

More than other words in this group precept is likely to suggest something that is advisory and nonobligatory

the Old Bailey, at that date, was a choice illustration of the precept that “whatever is is right” — Charles Dickens

the one child to whom the “spare-the-rod” precept did not apply — Margaret Deland

regulation suggests directives for a detail of procedure or conduct applying within an organization and established with executive or administrative authority

regular scholarships are awarded in accordance with the following regulations set up by the Committee on Scholarships — Official Register of Harvard University

a colonel not on flying status was by regulation ineligible for most Air Force commands — J.G.Cozzens

ordinance suggests an obligatory order, direction, or injunction governing some detail of conduct and issued and enforced by a limited and not sovereign agency, for instance a municipal government or a county or shire governing board

an ordinance about parking on Main Street

the new ordinance about delinquent property taxes

Synonym: see in addition principle .

- have the law on

III. verb

( -ed/-ing/-s )

Etymology: Middle English lawen, from lawe, n.

intransitive verb

: to go to law

transitive verb

1. chiefly dialect : to sue or prosecute at law

I won't go to the sheriff and I won't law you; I'll shoot you — Luke Short

2. : to mutilate (an animal) so as to prevent mischief : expeditate


now dialect

variant of low

V. interjection

Etymology: partly alteration of la (II) , partly euphemism for Lord

now dialect — used especially to express surprise

Webster's New International English Dictionary.      Новый международный словарь английского языка Webster.