law - Wiktionary
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Etymology 1
From Middle English lawe, laȝe, from Old Englishlagu (“law”), from Old Norse lǫg (“law”, literally “things laid down or fixed”), originally the plural of lag (“layer, stratum, a laying in order, measure, stroke”), 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 ġesetnes. More at lay. Unrelated to French loi nor Spanish ley, since they both derive from *leǵ- (“to gather”).
law (countable and uncountable, plural laws)
  1. The body of binding rules and regulations, customs, and standards established in a community by its legislative and judicial authorities.
    the courts interpret the law
    entrapment is against the law
    1918, W. B. Maxwell, chapter 22, in The Mirror and the Lamp:
    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.
    1. The body of such rules that pertain to a particular topic.
      property law
      commercial hunting and fishing law
    2. Common law, as contrasted with equity.
  2. A binding regulation or custom established in a community in this way.
    There is a law against importing wallabies.
    A new law forbids driving on that road.
    The court ruled that the executive order was not law and nullified it.
    1915, G[eorge] A. Birmingham [pseudonym; James Owen Hannay], chapter I, in Gossamer, New York, N.Y.: George H. Doran Company, OCLC5661828:
    As a political system democracy seems to me extraordinarily foolish, […]. My servant is, so far as I am concerned, welcome to as many votes as he can get. […] I do not suppose that it matters much in reality whether laws are made by dukes or cornerboys, but I like, as far as possible, to associate with gentlemen in private life.
  3. (more generally) A rule, such as:
    1. Any rule that must or should be obeyed, concerning behaviours and their consequences. (Compare mores.)
      "Do unto others as you wish them to do unto you" is a good law to follow.
      the law of self-preservation
    2. A rule or principle regarding the construction of language or art.
      the laws of playwriting and poetry
      1997, Derek Prince, If you Want God's Best, →ISBN:
      The normal pronoun to use with "spirit" would be "it." But Jesus breaks the law of grammar and says not "when it," but "when he."
    3. A statement (in physics, etc) of an (observed, established) order or sequence or relationship of phenomena which is invariable under certain conditions. (Compare theory.)
      1992 March 2, Richard Preston, The New Yorker, "The Mountains of Pi":
      Observing pi is easier than studying physical phenomena, because you can prove things in mathematics, whereas you can’t prove anything in physics. And, unfortunately, the laws of physics change once every generation.
      the laws of thermodynamics
      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.
    4. (mathematics, logic) A statement (of relation) that is true under specified conditions; a mathematical or logical rule.
      Mathematical laws can be proved purely through mathematics, without scientific experimentation.
    5. Any statement of the relation of acts and conditions to their consequences.
      the law of scarcity
      the law of supply and demand
    6. (cricket) One of the official rules of cricket as codified by the its (former) governing body, the MCC.
  4. The control and order brought about by the observance of such rules.
    They worked to maintain law and order.
    It was a territory without law, marked by violence.
  5. (informal) A person or group that act(s) with authority to uphold such rules and order (for example, one or more police officers).
    Here comes the law — run!
    then the law arrived on the scene
  6. The profession that deals with such rules (as lawyers, judges, police officers, etc).
    He is studying for a career in law.
    She has practiced law in New York for twenty years.
  7. Jurisprudence, the field of knowledge which encompasses these rules.
    She went to university to study law.
  8. Litigation, legal action (as a means of maintaining or restoring order, redressing wrongs, etc).
    They were quick to go to law.
  9. (now uncommon) An allowance of distance or time (a head start) given to a weaker (human or animal) competitor in a race, to make the race more fair.
    1889, Thomas Hughes, Tom Brown at Rugby, page 150:
    After a few minutes' waiting, two well-known runners, chosen for the hares, buckled on the four bags filled with scent, compared their watches with those of young Brooke and Thome, and started off at a long, slinging trot across the fields in the direction of Barby. Then the hounds clustered round Thome, who explained shortly, "They're to have six minutes' law."
  10. (fantasy) One of two metaphysical forces ruling the world in some fantasy settings, also called order, and opposed to chaos.
  11. (law, chiefly historical) An oath sworn before a court, especially disclaiming a debt. (Chiefly in the phrases "wager of law", "wage one's law", "perform one's law", "lose one's law".)
    • 1793, Richard Wooddeson, A Systematical View of the Laws of England, page 169:
      As to the depriving the defendant of waging his law, it was thought, the practice merited discouragement, as a temptation to perjury.
    • 1846, Matthew Bacon, Sir Henry Gwilliam, & Charles Edward Dodd, A New Abridgment of the Law with Large Additions and Corrections:
      But, before the defendant takes the oath, the plaintiff is called by the crier thrice; and if he do not appear he becomes nonsuited, and then the defendant goes quit without taking his oath; and if he appear, and the defendant swear that he owes the plaintiff nothing, and the compurgators give it upon oath, that they believe he swears true, the plaintiff is barred for ever; for when a person has waged his law, it is as much as if a verdict had passed against the plaintiff; if the plaintiff do not appear to hear the defendant perform his law, so that he is nonsuit, he is not barred, but may bring a new action.
    • 2013, William Paley Baildon, Court Rolls of the Manor of Wakefield: Volume 2 , 1297 to 1309, →ISBN, page ix:
      A withdrawal from a wager of law was an admission of the point as to which the law was waged; the defaulter also incurred a fine (i, 297).
Derived terms
body of rules established in a community by its authorities
any rule that must or should be obeyed
statement of (observed, established) order, sequence or relationship of phenomena
mathematics: statement that is true under specified conditions
informal: the police
The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.
Translations to be checked
law (third-person singular simple present laws, present participle lawing, simple past and past participle lawed)
  1. (obsolete) To work as a lawyer; to practice law.
    • 1889, New York (State). Court of Appeals, New York Court of Appeals. Records and Briefs, page 71:
      That was in 1877 you were lawing with Herdick?
    • 1897, The Scroll of Phi Delta Theta - Volume 21, page 210:
      J. H. Turner is married and lawing in Milwaukee.
    • 1923, Briton Hadden, Time - Volume 29, page 59:
      The American Bar Association ruefully admits that the legal profession is overcrowded, especially in large cities. It has a committee studying the situation. Last week an editorial in the New York Law Journal urged a youthful revolt against the city, twanged an idyll of lawing in the country.
  2. (transitive, intransitive, chiefly dialectal) To prosecute or sue (someone), to litigate.
    • 1860, George Eliot (Mary Anne Lewes), The Mill on the Floss:
      Your husband's [...] so given to lawing, they say. I doubt he'll leave you poorly off when he dies.
    • 1886, Charles Dudley Warner, Their Pilgrimage, page 144:
      "I like folks to be up and down and square," she began saying, as she vigilantly watched the effect of her culinary skill upon the awed little party. "Yes, I've got a regular hotel license; you bet I have. There's been folks lawed in this town for sellin' a meal of victuals and not having one."
    • 2014, Joseph Andrew Orser, The Lives of Chang and Eng: Siam's Twins in Nineteenth-Century America:
      “So I said to her, 'Well, no man ever made anything lawing with his wife, so, if your mind is set on having a divorce and the children you will want plenty to raise them with,' so I deed her the farm in Sumner county and everything on it—horses, mules, machinery, everything.”
  3. (nonstandard) To rule over (with a certain effect) by law; govern.
    • 1939, Henry Green Hodges, City management: theory and practice of municipal administration:
      At its 1933 session, the Kansas legislature provided for funding outstanding bills and floating debts of those cities which could not make payment by a fixed date. By this stroke of its imagination, the legislature lawed all Kansas cities onto a "cash" basis and admonished them to stay there.
    • 1969, Aryan Path - Volume 40, page 338:
      Earth lies in the chorus of the stars' congregation in the lawed line of their movement, in the balanced rotation of their light, bound by that lawed line, conceived in the focus of that turning; a vessel fashioned on the wheel of endless time.
    • 1979, Gokhale, Surat In The Seventeenth Century, →ISBN, page 27:
      Nicholas Downton (February 1615) says of the people of Surat: "a mixt people, quiet, peaceable, very subtle; civil, and universally governed under one King, but diversely lawed and customed".
    • 2007, Henry Grenryk Ledesma, The Little Book: The Sound of the Seventh Trumpet, page 38:
      So that, when GOD said, “Let there be light:” Behold the first created light burst out unto its glory (here GOD lawed the power of heat, fire, light, melting, cooling, and freezing)
    • 2011, Brian Freemantle, The Iron Cage, →ISBN:
      Beyond the ocher and yellow-washed buildings, French colonial with a suggestion of Beau Geste from the castellated balconies, it is an arm-grabbing, loosely lawed bazaar of a place.
  4. (informal) To enforce the law.
    • 1918, Eldred Kurtz Means, E.K. Means, page 50:
      De gram jury lawed me all de time an' dat place got too hot.
    • 1972, Bill Peterson, Coaltown revisited: an Appalachian notebook, page 28:
      The only time I ever got lawed [arrested] was for the union. Happened three times.
    • 2008, Ron McLarty, Art in America: A Novel, →ISBN:
      So we're on the road with the micks, maybe a mile from the precinct, and Reedy just pulls over, takes them out onto the Commons, takes off the cuffs, and we knock about twenty pounds of shit out of them.” Petey sensed the agent watching him talk and tried to explain it all another way. “What I mean is, lawing used to be pretty damn pure.
    • 2013, J B Bergstad, Hyde's Corner - Book II - In The Name of Vengeance, →ISBN:
      The sheriff jabbed his thumb at his chest. "I run this shebang. Been doing so for forty-six years. You think you can come in here and preach lawing to me?
  5. To subject to legal restrictions.
    • 1895, The Chronicle - Volumes 55-56, page 125:
      Insurance may fairly be said to head the list of objects of legislative interference. It has been lawed and lawed until it is nearly outlawed, and the cry for more continues to go up unsatisfied
    • 1914, California Outlook - Volume 16, page lxx:
      No man knew what his water rights were until they had been lawed over, and lawed over, and lawed over again.
    • 1920, Weight and Measure, page 34:
      It has been truly said that we are lawed into existence and lawed through life and lawed out of it more than any other nation
    • 1994, Lisa Lewis, The Unbeliever, →ISBN, page 58:
      She knows what's tethered underwater. Not Children's bodies, but their toys, their lost, Lawed-against pleasures
See also
Etymology 2
From Middle English lawe, from Old English hlāw(“burial mound”). Also spelled low.
law (plural laws)
  1. (obsolete) A tumulus of stones.
  2. (Scotland and Northern England, archaic) A hill.
    1892, Robert Louis Stevenson, Across the Plains:
    You might climb the Law [...] and behold the face of many counties.
Etymology 3
Compare la.
(dated) An exclamation of mild surprise; lawks.
Etymology in ODS
AWL, WAL, WLA, Wal., awl, lwa
Khumi Chin
Law (1).
From Proto-Kuki-Chin *khlaa, from Proto-Sino-Tibetan *g-la. Cognates include Tibetan ཟླ་བ(zla ba) and Burmese (la.).
IPA(key): /lɔ˧/
  1. moon
  2. month
Lower Sorbian
From Proto-Slavic *lьvъ, from Proto-Indo-European *lewo-.
IPA(key): /law/
law m (diminutive lawk, feminine equivalentlawowka)
lion (Panthera leo)
Declension of law
Accusativelawalawowulawy, lawow
Derived terms
Further reading
Middle English
Alternative form of lawe
law (plural laws)
  1. law
  2. rounded hill (usually conical, frequently isolated or conspicuous)
Sranan Tongo
IPA(key): /lau̯/
  1. To be crazy
    ca. 1765, Pieter van Dyk, Nieuwe en nooit bevoorens geziene Onderwyzinge in het Bastert, of Neeger Engels, zoo als het zelve in de Hollandsze Colonien gebruikt word [New and unprecedented instruction in Bastard or Negro English, as it is used in the Dutch colonies]‎[2], Frankfurt/Madrid: Iberoamericana, page 22:
    Joe lau te moesi (current spelling: Yu law tumsi)
    You are too crazy
  2. To drive somebody crazy
    2005, Nyun-Grontapuvertaling fu den Kresten Griki Buku fu Bijbel [New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures]‎[3], Brooklyn, NY: Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, Acts of the Apostles, chapter 26, verse 24:
    Di Paulus kaba taki gi ensrefi, Festus taki nanga wan tranga sten: „Yu e kon law, Paulus! Den kefalek sani di yu leri e law yu!”
    When Paul was done speaking up for himself, Festus said with a loud voice: “You lost your mind, Paul! The great things you learnt are driving you insane!”
Upper Sorbian
From Proto-Slavic *lьvъ, from Proto-Indo-European *lewo-.
IPA(key): /lau̯/
law m
lion (Panthera leo)
Declension of law
Derived terms
lawica, lawjace/-a/-y, lawowe/-a/-y
Soft mutation of glaw (“rain”).
Welsh mutation
Note: Some of these forms may be hypothetical. Not every
possible mutated form of every word actually occurs.
Soft mutation of llaw (“hand”).
Welsh mutation
Note: Some of these forms may be hypothetical. Not every
possible mutated form of every word actually occurs.
Last edited on 15 June 2021, at 04:44
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