dead letter

a law, ordinance, etc., that has lost its force but has not been formally repealed or abolished.
a letter that cannot reach the addressee or be returned to the sender, usually because of incorrect address, and that is sent to and handled in a special division or department (dead-letter office) of a general post office.


dead-letter, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
dead letter
1.  a letter that cannot be delivered or returned because it lacks adequate directions
2.  a law or ordinance that is no longer enforced but has not been formally repealed
3.  informal anything considered no longer worthy of consideration

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Slang Dictionary

dead letter definition

  1. n.
    a letter that cannot move through the post office because the addressee does not exist or because the address is wrong or illegible. (Standard English.) : Every now and then they open the dead letters to see if they can figure out who they were meant for.
  2. n.
    an issue that does not matter anymore. : This contract is a dead letter. Forget it!
Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions by Richard A. Spears.Fourth Edition.
Copyright 2007. Published by McGraw-Hill Education.
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