Definition of unlawful in English:



  • Not conforming to, permitted by, or recognized by law or rules.

    ‘the use of unlawful violence’
    ‘they claimed the ban was unlawful’
    • ‘Mr Masciantonio was acting in an unlawful way when he had a fight with the deceased.’
    • ‘The Government rarely punished persons responsible for torture or unlawful deaths.’
    • ‘The defendant's motive should not change a lawful act into an unlawful act.’
    • ‘It was unlawful for the Home Office to disregard the policy, as it had done in the directions for removal.’
    • ‘Both appellants denied any unlawful intent in relation to explosions in this country.’
    • ‘It therefore is not in breach of any fundamental rights of the Claimants or otherwise unlawful.’
    • ‘The House of Lords had to determine whether the rule amounted to such unlawful discrimination.’
    • ‘The Defendants deny the allegation that they have incited others to carry out unlawful actions.’
    • ‘Usury was at first unlawful, although later specific controls were placed on interest rates.’
    • ‘He is not acting as a surrogate of the court in determining whether there has been unlawful conduct.’
    • ‘Where a conspiracy employs unlawful means and causes injury to a party a claim may also be upheld.’
    • ‘In other words the receipt of the letter led him to believe that immediate unlawful violence would be used.’
    • ‘What is the difference between a contract ex facie unlawful and one that is only illegal as performed?’
    • ‘Each of the people who uses or threatens unlawful violence will be guilty of the offence.’
    • ‘This was not somebody trying to improve his situation in life even by unlawful means.’
    • ‘The case before Judge Hoff was not one of high treason but one of unlawful extradition.’
    • ‘What is he to do if he is met by the defence that the debt or supposed debt arose from unlawful moneylending?’
    • ‘In the present case there is no evidence of bad faith or unlawful conduct on the part of the Council.’
    • ‘If malice aforethought is lacking the unlawful homicide will be manslaughter.’
    • ‘They sought their release on the ground that the conditions of their detention rendered it unlawful.’
    illegal, illicit, lawbreaking, illegitimate, against the law
    View synonyms


On the difference between unlawful and illegal, see illegal