lawful

lawful
Legal; warranted or authorized by the law; having the qualifications prescribed by law; not contrary to nor forbidden by the law; not illegal. The principal distinction between the terms "lawful" and "legal" is that the former contemplates the substance of law, the latter the form of law. To say of an act that it is "lawful" implies that it is authorized, sanctioned, or at any rate not forbidden, by law. To say that it is "legal" implies that it is done or 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 said to be invalid or illegal, but could not be described as unlawful.
Further, the word "lawful" more clearly implies an ethical content than does "legal."
The latter goes no further than to denote compliance, with positive, technical, or formal rules; while the former usually imports a moral substance or ethical permissibility.
A further distinction is that the word "legal" is used as the synonym of "constructive," which "lawful" is not. Thus "legal fraud" is fraud implied or inferred by law, or made out by construction. "Lawful fraud" would be a contradiction of terms.
Again, "legal" is used as the antithesis of "equitable."
Thus, we speak of "legal assets," "legal estate," etc., but not of "lawful assets," or "lawful estate." But there are some connections in which the two words are used as exact equivalents. Thus, a "lawful" writ, warrant, or process is the same as a "legal" writ, warrant, or process.
See also legal

Black's law dictionary. . 1990.

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  • lawful — law·ful adj 1 a: being in harmony with the law a lawful judgment a lawful purpose b: constituted, authorized, or established by law a lawful duty 2: law abiding …   Law dictionary

  • lawful — lawful, legal, legitimate, licit mean permitted, sanctioned, or recognized by law or the law. Lawful differs from the others in implying a reference to various sorts of law (as divine law, natural law, or the law of the land, or as civil law,… …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • Lawful — Law ful, a. 1. Conformable to law; allowed by law; legitimate; competent. [1913 Webster] 2. Constituted or authorized by law; rightful; as, the lawful owner of lands. [1913 Webster] {Lawful age}, the age when the law recognizes one s right of… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • lawful — law‧ful [ˈlɔːfl ǁ ˈlɒː ] adjective LAW allowed by law; = LEGAL: • The owner has the right to use the property for any lawful purpose. lawfully adverb : • a product that has been lawfully produced in a member state of the European Union… …   Financial and business terms

  • lawful — [lô′fəl] adj. 1. in conformity with the principles of the law; permitted by law [a lawful act]: see also LEGAL (sense 2) 2. recognized by or established by law [lawful debts] 3. obeying the law; law abiding SYN. LEGAL lawfully adv. lawfulness n …   English World dictionary

  • lawful — c.1300, laghful; Cf. O.N. logfullr (see LAW (Cf. law)). Related: Lawfully; lawfulness …   Etymology dictionary

  • lawful — [adj] allowable, legitimate authorized, bona fide, canonical, card carrying*, commanded, condign, constitutional, decreed, due, enacted, enforced, enjoined, established, innocent, judged, judicial, jural, juridical, jurisprudent, just,… …   New thesaurus

  • lawful — ► ADJECTIVE ▪ conforming to, permitted by, or recognized by law or rules. DERIVATIVES lawfully adverb lawfulness noun …   English terms dictionary

  • lawful — Legal; warranted or authorized by the law; having the qualifications prescribed by law; not contrary to nor forbidden by the law; not illegal. The principal distinction between the terms lawful and legal is that the former contemplates the… …   Black's law dictionary

  • lawful — adjective Date: 14th century 1. a. being in harmony with the law < a lawful judgment > b. constituted, authorized, or established by law ; rightful < lawful institutions > 2. law abiding < lawful citizens > • …   New Collegiate Dictionary

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