from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition
- n. An unclaimed or undelivered letter that after a period of time is destroyed or returned to the sender by the postal service.
- n. A law, directive, or factor still formally in effect but no longer valid or enforced.
from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License
- n. An item of mail that cannot be delivered to its intended recipient; after some time it is returned to the sender, or destroyed
- n. A law that is no longer enforced
from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English
- adj. That which has lost its force or authority; as, the law has become a dead letter.
- n. etc. See under Dead, Drop, etc.
from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.
- n. mail that can neither be delivered nor returned
- n. the state of something that has outlived its relevance
Sorry, no etymologies found.
Sheriff Peppin, with his cohorts, had retired from active service after the bloody nineteenth of July, and law was a dead letter in the county.
The legislature may enact laws for a dozen years in succession -- but if they are not palatable to the people, they will remain a dead letter in the statute-book.