• Law


    • UK enPR: , IPA: /lɔː/
      • Rhymes: -ɔː
    • US enPR: , IPA: /lɔ/
    • cot-caught enPR: , IPA: /lɑ/
    • Homophones: lore in some non-rhotic accents

    Origin 1

    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 *lagą ("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.

    Full definition of law



    (countable and uncountable; plural laws)
    1. (uncountable) The body of rules and standards issued by a government, or to be applied by courts and similar authorities.
      By law, one is not allowed to own a wallaby in New York City.
      • 1918, W. B. Maxwell, The Mirror and the Lamp Chapter 22, Not unnaturally, “Auntie” took this communication in bad part....Next day she...tried to recover her ward by the hair of the head. Then, thwarted, the wretched creature went to the police for help; she was versed in the law, and had perhaps spared no pains to keep on good terms with the local constabulary.
    2. A particular such rule.
      A new law forbids driving on that road.
    3. (more generally) A written or understood rule that concerns behaviours and their consequences. Laws are usually associated with mores.
      "Do unto others as you wish them to do unto you" is a good law to follow.
    4. (scientific, strictly) 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.
      Newton's third law of motion states that to every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction. This is one of several laws derived from his general theory expounded in the Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica.
    5. (mathematics) A statement that is true under specified conditions.
    6. 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".
    7. (cricket) One of the official rules of cricket as codified by the MCC.
    8. (slang, uncountable) The police.
      Here comes the law — run!
    9. (fantasy) One of the two metaphysical forces of the world in some fantasy settings, as opposed to chaos.
    10. An oath, as in the presence of a court. See wager of law.


    Origin 2

    From Old English hlāw ("burial mound"). Also spelled low.



    (plural laws)
    1. (obsolete) a tumulus of stones
    2. Scottish and northern dialectal, archaic a hill
      • 1892, Robert Louis Stevenson, Across the PlainsYou might climb the Law ... and behold the face of many counties.

    Origin 3

    Compare la.


    1. (dated) An exclamation of mild surprise; lawks.


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