(redirected from lawfully)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.


Licit; legally warranted or authorized.

The terms lawful and legal differ in that the former contemplates the substance of law, whereas the latter alludes to the form of law. A lawful act is authorized, sanctioned, or not forbidden by law. A legal act is performed in accordance with the forms and usages of law, or in a technical manner. In this sense, illegal approaches the meaning of invalid. For example, a contract or will, executed without the required formalities, might be regarded as invalid or illegal, but could not be described as unlawful.

The term lawful more clearly suggests an ethical content than does the word legal. The latter merely denotes compliance with technical or formal rules, whereas the former usually signifies a moral substance or ethical permissibility. An additional distinction is that the word legal is used as the synonym of constructive, while lawful is not. Legal fraud is Fraud implied by law, or made out by construction, but lawful fraud would be a contradiction in terms. Legal is also used as the antithesis of equitable, just. As a result, legal estate is the correct usage, instead of lawful estate. Under certain circumstances, however, the two words are used as exact equivalents. A lawful writ, warrant, or process is the same as a legal writ, warrant, or process.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


allowed, recognized, or sanctioned by law; legal.
Collins Dictionary of Law © W.J. Stewart, 2006

LAWFUL. That which is not forbidden by law. Id omne licitum est, quod non est legibus prohibitum, quamobrem, quod, lege permittente, fit, poenam non meretur. To be valid a contract must be lawful.

A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States. By John Bouvier. Published 1856.
References in periodicals archive ?
He could not produce any evidence to show that he was staying in Singapore lawfully.
But if there are incidence calls or emergencies, we are lawfully entitled to enter.
Jurors deliberated for three-and-a-half hours to conclude that all three attackers were lawfully killed by police after they "ignored clear warning shouts".
The company said it had acted lawfully at all times and denied any wrongdoing, but had determined that the agreement was in the best interest of shareholders.
But boss Sanjay Mehrotra said Micron had found it could lawfully "resume shipping a subset of current products".
Illustration: An order is promulgated by a public servant lawfully empowered to promulgate such order, directing that a religious procession shall not pass down a certain street.
Dwelling on that, he further cautioned the electorate and the politicians to play according to the rule and refrain from any act capable of disrupting the electoral process or inciting violence, as whosoever is caught in such would be mercilessly and lawfully dealt with.
He countered that he did not receive the amount but claimed he had lawfully acquired and earned them as salaries for April and May 2017 and consultancy fee for 2017 as CEO and consultant of TRLEI.
This will be issued upon proof by the importer that the goods in question have been lawfully exported from their country of origin.
WESTMINSTER terrorist Khalid Masood was lawfully killed when he was shot by police, an inquest jury has found.
The defence had earlier argued that evidence obtained from Greece by Cypriot authorities was not acquired lawfully via the mutual judicial assistance protocol between the two countries.