Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A rule of conduct or procedure established by custom, agreement, or authority.
  • n. The body of rules and principles governing the affairs of a community and enforced by a political authority; a legal system: international law.
  • n. The condition of social order and justice created by adherence to such a system: a breakdown of law and civilized behavior.
  • n. A set of rules or principles dealing with a specific area of a legal system: tax law; criminal law.
  • n. A piece of enacted legislation.
  • n. The system of judicial administration giving effect to the laws of a community: All citizens are equal before the law.
  • n. Legal action or proceedings; litigation: submit a dispute to law.
  • n. An impromptu or extralegal system of justice substituted for established judicial procedure: frontier law.
  • n. An agency or agent responsible for enforcing the law. Often used with the: "The law . . . stormed out of the woods as the vessel was being relieved of her cargo” ( Sid Moody).
  • n. Informal A police officer. Often used with the.
  • n. The science and study of law; jurisprudence.
  • n. Knowledge of law.
  • n. The profession of an attorney.
  • n. Something, such as an order or a dictum, having absolute or unquestioned authority: The commander's word was law.
  • n. The body of principles or precepts held to express the divine will, especially as revealed in the Bible.
  • n. The first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures.
  • n. A code of principles based on morality, conscience, or nature.
  • n. A rule or custom generally established in a particular domain: the unwritten laws of good sportsmanship.
  • n. A way of life: the law of the jungle.
  • n. A statement describing a relationship observed to be invariable between or among phenomena for all cases in which the specified conditions are met: the law of gravity.
  • n. A generalization based on consistent experience or results: the law of supply and demand.
  • n. Mathematics A general principle or rule that is assumed or that has been proven to hold between expressions.
  • n. A principle of organization, procedure, or technique: the laws of grammar; the laws of visual perspective.
  • intransitive v. To go to law; litigate.
  • idiom a law unto (oneself) A totally independent operator: An executive who is a law unto herself.
  • idiom take the law into (one's) own hands To mete out justice as one sees fit without due recourse to law enforcement agencies or the courts.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The body of rules and standards issued by a government, or to be applied by courts and similar authorities.
  • n. A particular such rule.
  • n. A written or understood rule that concerns behaviours and the appropriate consequences thereof. Laws are usually associated with mores.
  • n. A well-established, observed physical characteristic or behavior of nature. The word is used to simply identify "what happens," without implying any explanatory mechanism or causation. Compare to theory.
  • n. A statement that is true under specified conditions.
  • n. A category of English "common law" petitions that request monetary relief, as opposed to relief in forms other than a monetary judgment; compare to "equity".
  • n. One of the official rules of cricket as codified by the MCC.
  • n. The police.
  • n. One of the two metaphysical forces of the world in some fantasy settings, as opposed to chaos.
  • n. a tumulus of stones
  • n. a hill
  • interj. An exclamation of mild surprise; lawks.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. In general, a rule of being or of conduct, established by an authority able to enforce its will; a controlling regulation; the mode or order according to which an agent or a power acts.
  • n. In morals: The will of God as the rule for the disposition and conduct of all responsible beings toward him and toward each other; a rule of living, conformable to righteousness; the rule of action as obligatory on the conscience or moral nature.
  • n. The Jewish or Mosaic code, and that part of Scripture where it is written, in distinction from the gospel; hence, also, the Old Testament.
  • n.
  • n. An organic rule, as a constitution or charter, establishing and defining the conditions of the existence of a state or other organized community.
  • n. Any edict, decree, order, ordinance, statute, resolution, judicial, decision, usage, etc., or recognized, and enforced, by the controlling authority.
  • n. In philosophy and physics: A rule of being, operation, or change, so certain and constant that it is conceived of as imposed by the will of God or by some controlling authority
  • n. In mathematics: The rule according to which anything, as the change of value of a variable, or the value of the terms of a series, proceeds; mode or order of sequence.
  • n. In arts, works, games, etc.: The rules of construction, or of procedure, conforming to the conditions of success; a principle, maxim; or usage.
  • n. Collectively, the whole body of rules relating to one subject, or emanating from one source; -- including usually the writings pertaining to them, and judicial proceedings under them
  • n. Legal science; jurisprudence; the principles of equity; applied justice.
  • n. Trial by the laws of the land; judicial remedy; litigation.
  • n. An oath, as in the presence of a court.
  • interj. An exclamation of mild surprise.
  • transitive v. Same as lawe, v. t.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To make a law; ordain.
  • To apply the law to; enforce the law against.
  • To give law to; regulate; determine.
  • In old English forest usage, to cut off the claws and balls of the fore feet of (a dog); mutilate the feet of, as a dog; expeditate.
  • To go to law; litigate.
  • To Study law.
  • An obsolete or dialectal (Scotch) form of low.
  • A variation of la, or often of lord. Also laws.
  • n. A rule of action prescribed by authority, especially by a sovereign or by the state: as, the laws of Manu; a law of God.
  • n. Specifically— Any written or positive rule, or collection of rules, prescribed under the authority of the state or nation, whether by the people in its constitution, as the organic law, or by the legislature in its statute law, or by the treaty-making power, or by municipalities in their ordinances or by-laws.
  • n. An act of the supreme legislative body of a state or nation, as distinguished from the constitution: as, the constitution, and the laws made in pursuance thereof.
  • n. In a more general sense, the profession or vocation of attorneys, counsellors, solicitors, conveyancers, etc.: as, to practise law.
  • n. Litigation: as, to go to law.
  • n. Collectively, a system or collection of such rules.
  • n. The Mosaic system of rules and ordinances.
  • n. Hence— The books of the Bible containing this system; the books of the law.
  • n. The preceptive part of the Bible, especially of the New-Testament, in contradistinction to its promises.
  • n. A proposition which expresses the constant or regular order of certain phenomena, or the constant mode of action of a force; a general formula or rule to which all things, or all things or phenomena within the limits of a certain class or group, conform, precisely and without exception; a rule to which events really tend to conform.
  • n. One of the rules or principles by which anything is regulated: as, the laws of the turf; the laws of versification.
  • n. A rule according to which anything is produced: as, the mathematical law of a curve.
  • n. An allowance in distance or time granted to an animal in a chase, or to a weaker competitor in a race or other contest; permission given to one competitor to start a certain distance ahead of, or a certain time before, another, in order to equalize the chances of winning.
  • n. Custom; manner.
  • n. that the quantity of an electrolyte decomposed in a given time is proportional to the strength of the current;
  • n. that the weights of the elements separated are proportional to their chemical equivalents; and
  • n. that the strength of the electrolytic action is the same for cells in any part of the same circuit.
  • n. Aryan (Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, etc.).
  • n. low German (Gothic, Scandinavian, Anglo-Saxon, English, etc.).
  • n. High German (Old High German, Middle High German, New High German). For example, Skt. pitri (pitar) = Gr. patēr = Latin pater = Goth. fadar = OHG. vatar = English father; Skt. tvam = Gr. τύ = Latin tu = Goth, thu = OHG. du - E. thou; Skt. jānu (for *gānu) = Gr. γόνυ = Latin genu = Goth, kniu = OHG. chniu, chneo = English knee, etc. In the application of Grimm's law numerous in consistencies and anomalies appear, due to interference, conformation, particular position or sequence of sounds, variations of accent, and other causes explained by other philological laws, or remaining in small part occult. The most important of these other laws is Verner's law (which see, below). See also the articles on the separate letters.
  • n. The orbits of the planets are ellipses having the sun at one focus.
  • n. The areas described by their radiivectores in equal times are equal.
  • n. The squares of their periodic times are proportional to the cubes of their mean distances from the sun.
  • n. At any junction-point in a network of conductors the sum of all the currents which flow toward the junction is equal to the sum of all the currents which flow away from the junction (called the condition of continuity).
  • n. In any complete electric circuit the sum of the electromotive forces, reckoned in order round the circuit, is equal to the sum of the products of the current through and the resistance of each conductor forming the circuit.
  • n. The established law of a country.
  • n. More specifically, a law relating directly to the raising of the income of the government, as distinguished from one incidentally imposing fees, etc.
  • n. Synonyms Right, Equity, etc. (see justice); Law, Common Law, Statute, Enactment, Edict, Decree, Ordinance, Regulation, Canon. Law is the generic word, covering not only what is commanded by competent authority, but modes of action and orders of sequence: as, the Salic law; a law of rhetoric or logic; a law of nature; a law of character. Common law is that rule of action which has grown up from old usage and the decisions of judges. Statutes and enactments are laws made by legislative bodies; the slight difference between them is implied in their derivations. Edicts and decrees, on the other hand, are not legislative, but personal or executive acts, an edict being generally the command of a sovereign, and especially of an autocrat, while a decree is generally the order of an executive body or a court. Ordinance is very broad in its use, being applied to statutes (especially those of great importance: as, the ordinance of 1787), to decrees, to the local laws passed by city governments, etc. A regulation is a limited, subordinate, or temporary law or rule, perhaps applying to details of management or behavior, and often without expressed penalty for violation: as, army regulations; the regulations in a constitution. Canon is in this connection strictly an ecclesiastical term.
  • n. A dialectal form of low.
  • n. In acoustics, the law that “any vibrational motion of the air in the entrance to the ear, corresponding to a musical tone, may be always, and for each case only in a single way, exhibited as the sum of a number of simple vibrational motions, corresponding to the partials of this musical tone.”
  • n. Same as Kelvin's law.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. the force of policemen and officers
  • n. the branch of philosophy concerned with the law and the principles that lead courts to make the decisions they do
  • n. a generalization that describes recurring facts or events in nature
  • n. the collection of rules imposed by authority
  • n. a rule or body of rules of conduct inherent in human nature and essential to or binding upon human society
  • n. the learned profession that is mastered by graduate study in a law school and that is responsible for the judicial system
  • n. legal document setting forth rules governing a particular kind of activity

Etymologies

Middle English, from Old English lagu, from Old Norse *lagu, variant of lag, that which is laid down.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English lawe, laȝe, from Old English lagu ("law"), from Old Norse *lagu, an early plural form of lag, lǫg ("layer, stratum, a laying in order, measure, stroke, law", literally "something laid down or fixed"), from Proto-Germanic *lagan (“that which is laid down”), from Proto-Indo-European *legh- (“to lie”). Cognate with Icelandic lög ("things laid down, law"), Swedish lag ("law"), Danish lov ("law"). Replaced Old English ǣ and gesetnes. More at lay. (Wiktionary)
From Old English hlāw ("burial mound"). Also spelled low. (Wiktionary)
Compare la. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • I just really hate it when people twist what the state of the law is, or make extreme claims with colorful language about what is a fairly unexceptional case *under current law*.

    The Volokh Conspiracy » My Detroit Free Press op ed on Sotomayor and Didden:

  • It is this feature of the natural law that justifies, on Aquinas's view, our calling the natural law ˜law.™

    The Natural Law Tradition in Ethics

  • This involves at least two separate claims: In one sense, it can be understood as a thesis about the concept of law, maintaining that what we call ˜law™ can only be those norms which are backed by sanctions of the political sovereign.

    The Nature of Law

  • Considering that the current law and society does not recognize this as legally actionable, I think restore may be a small step in the direction of accountability, *but only if it is applied only to those cases that absolutely cannot be prosecuted under current criminal law* I am not refering to provability here, but to whether an alleged act meets the current legal definition of rape.

    Beyond A Reasonable Doubt, The Rape/Consent Spectrum, And Restorative Justice

  • (TOH-ruh, TAWR-uh, TOY-ruh) The law on which Judaism is founded (torah is Hebrew for “law”).

    Torah

  • At first, I did not grant that he had, strictly speaking, given us a new law, and quoted the words of John, that "the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ;" but when I afterwards saw that by "_a new law_," they meant merely the gospel, or the New Testament, I answered in the affirmative.

    Fox's Book of Martyrs Or A History of the Lives, Sufferings, and Triumphant Deaths of the Primitive Protestant Martyrs

  • Before the objector can make out his case, that the life of the slave is protected by the law, he must not only show that the _words of the law_ grant him such protection, but that such a state of public sentiment exists as will carry out the provisions of the law in their true spirit.

    The Anti-Slavery Examiner, Omnibus

  • 'I do not say, however, that there is no good woman at all, but the species is rare; and hence an old law says that no _law concerning good women_ should be made, for that laws are to be made concerning things of usual occurrence, as it is written in _Auth. sinc prohib_., etc., _quia vero_ and L. _Nam ad ca_, Dig.

    The Continental Monthly, Vol. 1, No. 3, March, 1862

  • As _publication_ is essential to the binding power of a law, in fact to its existence _as law_, you will of course defeat your persecutors, and put them to shame, on the principle of _ex post facto_.

    The Journal of Negro History, Volume 3, 1918

  • I am not of course, speaking now of that species of slander against which the law of libel provides a remedy, but of that of which the Gospel alone takes cognisance; for the worst injuries which man can do to man, are precisely those which are too delicate for _law_ to deal with.

    Sermons Preached at Brighton Third Series

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