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[law-fuh l] /ˈlɔ fəl/
allowed or permitted by law; not contrary to law:
a lawful enterprise.
recognized or sanctioned by law; legitimate:
a lawful marriage; a lawful heir.
appointed or recognized by law; legally qualified:
a lawful king.
acting or living according to the law; law-abiding:
a lawful man; a lawful community.
1250-1300; Middle English laghful. See law1, -ful
Related forms
lawfully, adverb
lawfulness, noun
prelawful, adjective
prelawfully, adverb
prelawfulness, noun
quasi-lawful, adjective
quasi-lawfully, adverb
1. legal. 2. licit. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples from the web for lawful
  • The standard for lawful arrest is probable cause and not beyond a reasonable doubt.
  • It's disingenuous to equate lawful prescription medications with illegal recreational drugs.
  • Once a lawful scavenger, he had become one of the new economy's micro-saboteurs.
  • Family law has always been messy in this country, with marriages that are lawful in one state being unlawful in the next.
  • After the decision, it's not so easy to argue that the underlying act of file sharing is lawful.
  • It urged its draftee readers to think about the message and then-if they so chose-to act on it in a lawful and nonviolent way.
  • If the order is a lawful order, it should be obeyed.
  • In the way that a lawful evil dictatorship will always be preferable to a chaotic evil anarchy, cynicism gives us bright lines.
  • The proposition is usually linked with one to make the secondary boycott lawful.
  • It is no longer lawful to construct barracks to cover the whole of a lot.
British Dictionary definitions for lawful


allowed, recognized, or sanctioned by law; legal
Derived Forms
lawfully, adverb
lawfulness, noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for lawful

c.1300, laghful; cf. Old Norse logfullr (see law). Related: Lawfully; lawfulness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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