American English

Definition of law noun from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary



    jump to other results
    system of rules
  1. 1the law [uncountable] the whole system of rules that everyone in a country or society must obey If they entered the building they would be breaking the law. In this city, it is against the law to sleep in an abandoned building. Defense attorneys can use any means within the law to get their client off. Anyone who operates a motor vehicle is required by law to have a driver's license. The reforms recently became law. Do not think you are above the law (= think that you cannot be punished by the law). the need for better law enforcement (humorous) Kate's word was law in the Brown household. Topic CollocationsCriminal Justicebreaking the law break/violate/obey/uphold the law be investigated/arrested/tried for a crime/a robbery/fraud be arrested/indicted/convicted on felony charges/on charges of rape/fraud be arrested on suspicion of arson/robbery/shoplifting be accused of/be charged with murder/homicide/four counts of fraud face two charges of assault and battery admit your guilt/liability/responsibility (for something) deny the allegations/claims/charges confess to a crime be granted/be refused/be released on/skip/jump bailthe legal process stand/await/bring somebody to/come to/be on trial take somebody to/come to/settle something out of court face/avoid/escape prosecution seek/retain/have the right to/be denied access to legal counsel hold/conduct/attend/adjourn a hearing/trial sit on/influence/persuade/convince/advise a jury stand/appear/be brought before a judge plead guilty/not guilty to a crime be called to/take/put somebody on the stand/the witness stand call/subpoena/question/cross-examine a witness give/hear the evidence against/on behalf of somebody raise/withdraw/overrule an objection reach a unanimous/majority verdict return/deliver/record a verdict of guilty/not guilty convict/acquit the defendant of the crime secure a conviction/your acquittal lodge/file an appeal appeal (against)/challenge/uphold/overturn a conviction/verdictsentencing and punishment sentence somebody to 5 years in prison/2 years' probation carry/face/serve a seven-year/life sentence receive/be given the death penalty be sentenced to ten years (in prison/jail) carry/impose/pay a fine (of $3,000)/a penalty (of 14 years' imprisonment) be imprisoned/jailed for drug possession/fraud/murder do/serve time/ten years be sent to/put somebody in/be released from jail/prison be/put somebody/spend 13 years on death row be granted/be denied/violate (your) parole ⇨ more collocations at crime
  2. 2[uncountable] a particular branch of the law corporate/international/tax, etc. law see also canon law, case law, civil law, common law, criminal law, statute law
  3. one rule
  4. 3[countable] a rule that deals with a particular crime, agreement, etc. law (against something) a law against the hiring of illegal immigrants law (on something) The government has introduced some tough new laws on food hygiene. strict gun laws a federal/state law to pass a law (= officially make it part of the system of laws) (informal) There ought to be a law against it! see also bylaw, lemon law
  5. subject/profession
  6. 4[uncountable] the study of the law as a subject at a university, etc.; the profession of being a lawyer Jane is studying law. He's in law school. What made you go into law? a law firm
  7. police
  8. 5the law [singular] used to refer to the police and the legal system Jim is always getting into trouble with the law. She was well known for her brushes with the law.
  9. of organization/activity
  10. 6[countable] one of the rules that control an organization or activity the laws of the Roman Catholic Church The first law of kung fu is to defend yourself. the laws of tennis the laws of war
  11. of good behavior
  12. 7[countable] a rule for good behavior or how you should behave in a particular place or situation moral laws the unspoken law of the street
  13. in business/nature/science
  14. 8[countable] the fact that something always happens in the same way in an activity or in nature synonym principle the law of supply and demand the law of gravity
  15. 9[countable] a scientific rule that someone has stated to explain a natural process the first law of thermodynamics see also legal, legalize, legislate, Murphy's Law, Parkinson's law
  16. Idioms
    be a law unto yourself
    jump to other results
    to behave in an independent way and ignore rules or what other people want you to do Boys of that age are a law unto themselves.
    law and order
    jump to other results
    a situation in which people obey the law and behave in a peaceful way The government struggled to maintain law and order. After the riots, the military was brought in to restore law and order. They claim to be the party of law and order.
    the law of averages
    jump to other results
    the principle that one thing will happen as often as another if you try enough times Keep looking, and by the law of averages you'll find a job sooner or later.
    the law of the jungle
    jump to other results
    a situation in which people are prepared to harm other people in order to succeed These criminal gangs only recognize the law of the jungle.
    lay down the law
    jump to other results
    to tell someone with force what they should or should not do My dad started laying down the law about what time I should come home.
    the letter of the law (often disapproving)
    jump to other results
    the exact words of a law or rule rather than its general meaning They insist on sticking to the letter of the law. We might be guilty of slightly bending the letter of the law.
    on the wrong side of the law
    jump to other results
    in trouble with the police
    possession is nine tenths of the law (saying)
    jump to other results
    if you already have or control something, it is difficult for someone else to take it away from you, even if they have the legal right to it
    the rule of law
    jump to other results
    the condition in which all members of society, including its rulers, accept the authority of the law Democracy and the rule of law are yet to be firmly established in the country.
    take the law into your own hands
    jump to other results
    to do something illegal in order to punish someone for doing something wrong, instead of letting the police deal with them After a series of burglaries in the area, the police are worried that residents might take the law into their own hands.
    there's no law against something, something is not against the law (informal)
    jump to other results
    used to tell someone who is criticizing you that you are not doing anything wrong I'll sing if I want to—there's no law against it.
See the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary entry: law