1. [syn: law, law of nature]
The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48:
Law \Law\ (l[add]), n. [OE. lawe, laghe, AS. lagu, from the root
of E. lie: akin to OS. lag, Icel. l["o]g, Sw. lag, Dan. lov;
cf. L. lex, E. legal. A law is that which is laid, set, or
fixed; like statute, fr. L. statuere to make to stand. See
Lie to be prostrate.]
1. In general, a rule of being or of conduct, established by
an authority able to enforce its will; a controlling
regulation; the mode or order according to which an agent
or a power acts.
Note: A law may be universal or particular, written or
unwritten, published or secret. From the nature of the
highest laws a degree of permanency or stability is
always implied; but the power which makes a law, or a
superior power, may annul or change it.
These are the statutes and judgments and laws,
which the Lord made. --Lev. xxvi.
The law of thy God, and the law of the King.
As if they would confine the Interminable . . .
Who made our laws to bind us, not himself.
His mind his kingdom, and his will his law.
2. In morals: The will of God as the rule for the disposition
and conduct of all responsible beings toward him and
toward each other; a rule of living, conformable to
righteousness; the rule of action as obligatory on the
conscience or moral nature.
3. The Jewish or Mosaic code, and that part of Scripture
where it is written, in distinction from the gospel;
hence, also, the Old Testament. Specifically: the first
five books of the bible, called also Torah, Pentatech,
or Law of Moses.
[1913 Webster +PJC]
What things soever the law saith, it saith to them
who are under the law . . . But now the
righteousness of God without the law is manifested,
being witnessed by the law and the prophets. --Rom.
iii. 19, 21.
4. In human government:
(a) An organic rule, as a constitution or charter,
establishing and defining the conditions of the
existence of a state or other organized community.
(b) Any edict, decree, order, ordinance, statute,
resolution, judicial, decision, usage, etc., or
recognized, and enforced, by the controlling
5. In philosophy and physics: A rule of being, operation, or
change, so certain and constant that it is conceived of as
imposed by the will of God or by some controlling
authority; as, the law of gravitation; the laws of motion;
the law heredity; the laws of thought; the laws of cause
and effect; law of self-preservation.
6. In mathematics: The rule according to which anything, as
the change of value of a variable, or the value of the
terms of a series, proceeds; mode or order of sequence.
7. In arts, works, games, etc.: The rules of construction, or
of procedure, conforming to the conditions of success; a
principle, maxim; or usage; as, the laws of poetry, of
architecture, of courtesy, or of whist.
8. Collectively, the whole body of rules relating to one
subject, or emanating from one source; -- including
usually the writings pertaining to them, and judicial
proceedings under them; as, divine law; English law; Roman
law; the law of real property; insurance law.
9. Legal science; jurisprudence; the principles of equity;
Reason is the life of the law; nay, the common law
itself is nothing else but reason. --Coke.
Law is beneficence acting by rule. --Burke.
And sovereign Law, that state's collected will
O'er thrones and globes elate,
Sits empress, crowning good, repressing ill. --Sir
10. Trial by the laws of the land; judicial remedy;
litigation; as, to go law.
When every case in law is right. --Shak.
He found law dear and left it cheap. --Brougham.
11. An oath, as in the presence of a court. [Obs.] See Wager
of law, under Wager.
Avogadro's law (Chem.), a fundamental conception, according
to which, under similar conditions of temperature and
pressure, all gases and vapors contain in the same volume
the same number of ultimate molecules; -- so named after
Avogadro, an Italian scientist. Sometimes called
Bode's law (Astron.), an approximative empirical expression
of the distances of the planets from the sun, as follows:
-- Mer. Ven. Earth. Mars. Aste. Jup. Sat. Uran. Nep. 4 4 4
4 4 4 4 4 4 0 3 6 12 24 48 96 192 384 -- -- -- -- -- -- --
--- --- 4 7 10 16 28 52 100 196 388 5.9 7.3 10 15.2 27.4
52 95.4 192 300 where each distance (line third) is the
sum of 4 and a multiple of 3 by the series 0, 1, 2, 4, 8,
etc., the true distances being given in the lower line.
Boyle's law (Physics), an expression of the fact, that when
an elastic fluid is subjected to compression, and kept at
a constant temperature, the product of the pressure and
volume is a constant quantity, i. e., the volume is
inversely proportioned to the pressure; -- known also as
Mariotte's law, and the law of Boyle and Mariotte.
Brehon laws. See under Brehon.
Canon law, the body of ecclesiastical law adopted in the
Christian Church, certain portions of which (for example,
the law of marriage as existing before the Council of
Tent) were brought to America by the English colonists as
part of the common law of the land. --Wharton.
Civil law, a term used by writers to designate Roman law,
with modifications thereof which have been made in the
different countries into which that law has been
introduced. The civil law, instead of the common law,
prevails in the State of Louisiana. --Wharton.
Commercial law. See Law merchant (below).
Common law. See under Common.
Criminal law, that branch of jurisprudence which relates to
Ecclesiastical law. See under Ecclesiastical.
Grimm's law (Philol.), a statement (propounded by the
German philologist Jacob Grimm) of certain regular changes
which the primitive Indo-European mute consonants,
so-called (most plainly seen in Sanskrit and, with some
changes, in Greek and Latin), have undergone in the
Teutonic languages. Examples: Skr. bh[=a]t[.r], L. frater,
E. brother, G. bruder; L. tres, E. three, G. drei, Skr.
go, E. cow, G. kuh; Skr. dh[=a] to put, Gr. ti-qe`-nai, E.
do, OHG, tuon, G. thun. See also lautverschiebung.
Kepler's laws (Astron.), three important laws or
expressions of the order of the planetary motions,
discovered by John Kepler. They are these: (1) The orbit
of a planet with respect to the sun is an ellipse, the sun
being in one of the foci. (2) The areas swept over by a
vector drawn from the sun to a planet are proportioned to
the times of describing them. (3) The squares of the times
of revolution of two planets are in the ratio of the cubes
of their mean distances.
Law binding, a plain style of leather binding, used for law
books; -- called also law calf.
Law book, a book containing, or treating of, laws.
Law calf. See Law binding (above).
(a) Formerly, a day of holding court, esp. a court-leet.
(b) The day named in a mortgage for the payment of the
money to secure which it was given. [U. S.]
Law French, the dialect of Norman, which was used in
judicial proceedings and law books in England from the
days of William the Conqueror to the thirty-sixth year of
Law language, the language used in legal writings and
Law Latin. See under Latin.
Law lords, peers in the British Parliament who have held
high judicial office, or have been noted in the legal
Law merchant, or Commercial law, a system of rules by
which trade and commerce are regulated; -- deduced from
the custom of merchants, and regulated by judicial
decisions, as also by enactments of legislatures.
Law of Charles (Physics), the law that the volume of a
given mass of gas increases or decreases, by a definite
fraction of its value for a given rise or fall of
temperature; -- sometimes less correctly styled Gay
Lussac's law, or Dalton's law.
Law of nations. See International law, under
Law of nature.
(a) A broad generalization expressive of the constant
action, or effect, of natural conditions; as, death
is a law of nature; self-defense is a law of nature.
See Law, 4.
(b) A term denoting the standard, or system, of morality
deducible from a study of the nature and natural
relations of human beings independent of supernatural
revelation or of municipal and social usages.
Law of the land, due process of law; the general law of the
Laws of honor. See under Honor.
Laws of motion (Physics), three laws defined by Sir Isaac
Newton: (1) Every body perseveres in its state of rest or
of moving uniformly in a straight line, except so far as
it is made to change that state by external force. (2)
Change of motion is proportional to the impressed force,
and takes place in the direction in which the force is
impressed. (3) Reaction is always equal and opposite to
action, that is to say, the actions of two bodies upon
each other are always equal and in opposite directions.
Marine law, or Maritime law, the law of the sea; a branch
of the law merchant relating to the affairs of the sea,
such as seamen, ships, shipping, navigation, and the like.
Mariotte's law. See Boyle's law (above).
Martial law.See under Martial.
Military law, a branch of the general municipal law,
consisting of rules ordained for the government of the
military force of a state in peace and war, and
administered in courts martial. --Kent. --Warren's
Moral law, the law of duty as regards what is right and
wrong in the sight of God; specifically, the ten
commandments given by Moses. See Law, 2.
Mosaic law, or Ceremonial law. (Script.) See Law, 3.
Municipal law, or Positive law, a rule prescribed by the
supreme power of a state, declaring some right, enforcing
some duty, or prohibiting some act; -- distinguished from
international law and constitutional law. See Law,
Periodic law. (Chem.) See under Periodic.
Roman law, the system of principles and laws found in the
codes and treatises of the lawmakers and jurists of
ancient Rome, and incorporated more or less into the laws
of the several European countries and colonies founded by
them. See Civil law (above).
Statute law, the law as stated in statutes or positive
enactments of the legislative body.
Sumptuary law. See under Sumptuary.
To go to law, to seek a settlement of any matter by
bringing it before the courts of law; to sue or prosecute
To take the law of, or To have the law of, to bring the
law to bear upon; as, to take the law of one's neighbor.
Wager of law. See under Wager.
Syn: Justice; equity.
Usage: Law, Statute, Common law, Regulation, Edict,
Decree. Law is generic, and, when used with
reference to, or in connection with, the other words
here considered, denotes whatever is commanded by one
who has a right to require obedience. A statute is a
particular law drawn out in form, and distinctly
enacted and proclaimed. Common law is a rule of action
founded on long usage and the decisions of courts of
justice. A regulation is a limited and often,
temporary law, intended to secure some particular end
or object. An edict is a command or law issued by a
sovereign, and is peculiar to a despotic government. A
decree is a permanent order either of a court or of
the executive government. See Justice.
WordNet (r) 3.0 (2006):
law of nature
n 1: a generalization that describes recurring facts or events
in nature; "the laws of thermodynamics" [syn: law, law
Bouvier's Law Dictionary, Revised 6th Ed (1856):
LAW OF NATURE. The law of nature is that which God, the sovereign of the
universe, has prescribed to all men, not by any formal promulgation, but by
the internal dictate of reason alone. It is discovered by a just
consideration of the agreeableness or disagreeableness of human actions to
the nature of man; and it comprehends all the duties which we owe either to
the Supreme Being, to ourselves, or to our neighbors; as reverence to God,
self-defence, temperance, honor to our parents, benevolence to all, a strict
adherence to our engagements, gratitude, and the like. Erskine's Pr. of L. of
Scot. B. 1, t. 1, s. 1. See Ayl. Pand. tit. 2, p. 5; Cicer. de Leg. lib. 1.
2. The primitive laws of nature may be reduced to six, namely: 1.
Comparative sagacity, or reason. 2. Self-love. 3. The attraction of the
sexes to each other. 4. The tenderness of parents towards their children. 5.
The religious sentiment. 6. Sociability.
3.-1. When man is properly organized, he is able to discover moral
good from moral evil; and the study of man proves that man is not only an
intelligent, but a free being, and he is therefore responsible for his
actions. The judgment we form of our good actions, produces happiness; on
the contrary the judgment we form of our bad actions produces unhappiness.
4.-2. Every animated being is impelled by nature to his own
preservation, to defend his life and body from injuries, to shun what may be
hurtful, and to provide all things requisite to his existence. Hence the
duty to watch over his own preservation. Suicide and duelling are therefore
contrary to this law; and a man cannot mutilate himself, nor renounce his
5.-3. The attraction of the sexes has been provided for the
preservation of the human race, and this law condemns celibacy. The end of
marriage proves that polygamy, (q.v.) and polyendry, (q.v.) are contrary
to the law of nature. Hence it follows that the husband and wife have a
mutual and exclusive right over each other.
6.-4. Man from his birth is wholly unable to provide for the least of
his necessities; but the love of his parents supplies for this weakness.
This is one of the most powerful laws of nature. The principal duties it
imposes on the parents, are to bestow on the child all the care its weakness
requires, to provide for its necessary food and clothing, to instruct it, to
provide for its wants, and to use coercive means for its good, when
7.-5. The religious sentiment which leads us naturally towards the
Supreme Being, is one of the attributes which belong to humanity alone; and
its importance gives it the rank of the moral law of nature. From this
sentiment arise all the sects and different forms of worship among men.
8.-6. The need which man feels to live in society, is one of the
primitive laws of nature, whence flow our duties and rights; and the
existence of society depends upon the condition that the rights of all shall
be respected. On this law are based the assistance, succors and good offices
which men owe to each other, they being unable to provide each every thing