Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adjective Being within the law; allowed by law.
  • adjective Established, sanctioned, or recognized by the law.
  • adjective Obeying the law; law-abiding.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • Allowed by law; legitimate; not contrary to law; free from legal objection: as, that is deemed lawful which no law forbids; many things are lawful which are not expedient.
  • Constituted or supported by law; capable of being enforced by law; rightful: as, lawful demands; the lawful owner of lands.
  • Possessing full legal rights.
  • Synonyms Allowable, permissible, regular.
  • 1 and Lawful, Legal, Legitimate, Licit, legalized, authorized, constitutional, just. Between lawful and legal there is really the same difference in breadth that there is between law and legislation or statute. (See law.) Legal is exact, meaning conformed to the law of the land, and having little figurative use: as, legal interest; a legal act. Lawful means not opposed to law, primarily to the law of the land, but with a good deal of freedom in figurative extension: it is unlike law, however, in always seeming figurative when carried beyond its primary meaning. Legitimate has as one of its primary meanings the idea of being born under law: as, a legitimate child; its other meanings are kindred. A legitimate inference is one that is drawn in conformity witll the laws of truth or thought. That which is legitimate is generally something made or done in conformity to law, principle, justice, fairness, or propriety. Licit is rarely used except in the phrase licit or illicit; these words apply to that which is lawful or unlawful, or perhaps only legal or illegal, in trade, relations, or especially intercourse, illicit expressing much more opprobrium than unlawful or illegal. See criminal.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • adjective Conformable to law; allowed by law; legitimate; competent.
  • adjective Constituted or authorized by law; rightful.
  • adjective the age when the law recognizes one's right of independent action; majority; -- generally the age of twenty-one years. Also called legal age or age of majority.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • adjective Conforming to, or recognised by law or rules.

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

  • adjective according to custom or rule or natural law
  • adjective conformable to or allowed by law
  • adjective having a legally established claim
  • adjective authorized, sanctioned by, or in accordance with law

Etymologies

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English laweful, equivalent to law +‎ -ful, conflated with Middle English leful, leeful, leveful ("according to law, lawful, pertaining to law"). See also leveful.

Examples

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