from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

n. A rule of conduct or procedure established by custom, agreement, or authority.

n. The body of rules and principles governing the affairs of a community and enforced by a political authority; a legal system: international law.

n. The condition of social order and justice created by adherence to such a system: a breakdown of law and civilized behavior.

n. A set of rules or principles dealing with a specific area of a legal system: tax law; criminal law.

n. A piece of enacted legislation.

n. The system of judicial administration giving effect to the laws of a community: All citizens are equal before the law.

n. Legal action or proceedings; litigation: submit a dispute to law.

n. An impromptu or extralegal system of justice substituted for established judicial procedure: frontier law.

n. An agency or agent responsible for enforcing the law. Often used with the: “The law . . . stormed out of the woods as the vessel was being relieved of her cargo” ( Sid Moody).

n. Informal A police officer. Often used with the.

n. The science and study of law; jurisprudence.

n. Knowledge of law.

n. The profession of an attorney.

n. Something, such as an order or a dictum, having absolute or unquestioned authority: The commander’s word was law.

n. The body of principles or precepts held to express the divine will, especially as revealed in the Bible.

n. The first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures.

n. A code of principles based on morality, conscience, or nature.

n. A rule or custom generally established in a particular domain: the unwritten laws of good sportsmanship.

n. A way of life: the law of the jungle.

n. A statement describing a relationship observed to be invariable between or among phenomena for all cases in which the specified conditions are met: the law of gravity.

n. A generalization based on consistent experience or results: the law of supply and demand.

n. Mathematics A general principle or rule that is assumed or that has been proven to hold between expressions.

n. A principle of organization, procedure, or technique: the laws of grammar; the laws of visual perspective.

intransitive v. To go to law; litigate.

idiom a law unto (oneself) A totally independent operator: An executive who is a law unto herself.

idiom take the law into (one’s) own hands To mete out justice as one sees fit without due recourse to law enforcement agencies or the courts.

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