What is Law? Definition of Law
“A law is an expression, indicator, or imposer of a consistent reality.” I’ll get to explain this definition in a while. Still on Law definition and meaning. (This is a general definition from me, however)
Definitions are essential. Law definition and meaning is not an exception.
And before we begin any subject, we love to give a definition of the subject.
This allows us to have a clue about the subject, and its scope. So, before we talk about law, let’s define it.
This post is on the definition of law, meaning, and more. Yes, definitions of law and meaning.
Complications in Defining Law?
Like some other subjects, the term ‘Law‘ is somewhat hard to define.
This is so because the scope of the word is not even easily understood. People talk about Law from different angles.
We have scientific laws, laws in Economics, human laws, eternal laws, divine laws, natural laws etc.
The large scope of the word ‘law’ has made it difficulty, and nearly impossible to define.
So many people across many field have tried and failed to give an absolute definition to law.
In this post, I would share with you some of the given definitions. And then I’ll tell you about my own definition. Stay tuned.
It should be of no astonishing effect to realise that the question of the definition for law is not a fascinating one to a practicing lawyer.
That is, a practising lawyer cares less about the definition of law. Well, this is not surprising.
What a lawyer would care about is what the law says about the particular situation of his client.
And possibly, how best to twist the wheel of justice to his side of the balance.
Lawyers care about ‘what does the law say about this’ and not really ‘what is law’.
But even as insignificant as it may look, the quest for a rigid definition for law as followed us into our present age.
Like I said supra, so many people have tried to give a good to law.
The issue behind this quest is really a jigsaw because the word ‘Law’ is as all-embracing as it can get.
The word ‘Law’ may be as a general and loose term. And in another instance, a technical and professional terminology.
There is a saying, ‘Where there is no law, there is no crime.” Law is the bedrock of any society.
Families have laws, communities have laws, people have personal laws. The nation has a constitution – the foundation of all its laws, in most cases.
Laws are all around us, everywhere in different forms. So, a definition a person or group gives is often limited by many factors.
Law Definition and Meaning
How then do we fix this? The element of law is as old as man. I think the existence of man himself is an effect of a law-cause.
How can humans explain adequately through their senses a term that is in itself the root of their senses?
How can we define our definition?
If terms like economics, religion, philosophy etc., are difficult to define, what more can we say of law?
What really comes to our mind when we hear the word ‘Law’?
Some rules and regulations given by an authority, according to which our actions and inactions are determined?
Perhaps, some other terms like law of gravitation, identity, cosines, diminishing returns, double negation, excluded middle and energy, etc.
Whatever it is that comes to our mind, we can also give a definition to law, true and direct.
Defining law is a jigsaw, but jigsaws can be solved.
Some definitions of law
Let us consider some of these definitions.
According to The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary -9th edition.
“Law is the whole system of rules that everyone in a country or society must obey.”
According to Merriam Webster Dictionary.
“Law is a binding custom or practice of a community. A rule of conduct or action prescribed or formally recognized as binding or enforced by a controlling authority.
The whole body of such customs, practices, or rules, and the control brought about by the existence or enforcement of such law.”
According to Herman Max Gluckman (1911-1975). Law is, “The whole reservoir of rules on which judges draw for their decisions.”
Prof. John W. Salmond (1862-1924), defines law as: “The body of principles recognized and applied by the state in the administration of justice.”
Let me go a step further in defining Law.
Law is a body of official rules and regulations, generally found in constitutions, legislation, judicial opinions, and the like, that is used to govern a society and to control the behaviour of its members. (Microsoft Encarta Premium 2009)
Also, according to Abiola Sanni, in ‘Introduction to Nigerian Legal Method’.
Law is, “a rule or body of rules made by institutions, bodies, and persons vested with the power to make such rules which are binding and enforced among the members of a given state or society.”
Meaning and Definitions of Law
These definitions, as far I can guess, should serve goodly for institutional purposes.
But to satisfy philosophical tendencies (if possible), let me explain to you my own definition of law.
After my Lecturer talked of the complications in defining law, as well as the failures, I began to think. And to God’s glory, I came up with this definition.
Pay close attention to this definition of law. It is not of the regular approaches at all.
“Law is an expression, indicator, or imposer of a consistent reality.”
This could be proven or hypothetical, sanctioned or unsanctioned, true or mythical, harmonious or antagonistic. In whatever way, it is still a Law.
Here, the word reality is anything that may be perceived by human senses, or subject to rational deliberation.
Let me explain.
A law may state that anything thrown up, unsuspended in space, must come down.
This is a law because it is an expression of a consistent reality. If you throw something up now, it comes down. If you throw it tomorrow, it would still fall. So, the result/reality is consistent, therefore it is a Law.
More on ‘what is Law?’ Law Definition and Meaning
Another example of law as an expression of a consistent reality is this. “When there is increase in price, there is decrease in quantity demanded, and vice versa.”
This is the law of demand. Many other laws of like pattern can be used to explain this aspect of the definition.
The law that says, “He that is guilty of murder must also be killed,” is an imposer of a consistent reality.
The reality here is the death or punishment of the person that is guilty of such thing defined as murder.
If this law is followed, it is obeyed. It this law is not obeyed, it is abridged. In either way, it remains a law (perhaps, of the state.)
If the enactment ceases to command a consistent reality, then ‘it is’ no longer a law, but ‘it was’.
“Every metal affected by fire must turn hot.” This could be law, an expression of a consistent reality.
It seems one of the main attributes of a law is that it initiates a consistent reality.
Whenever this reality seizes to be consistent, then the law seizes to be a law. We may use the verb ‘was’ in such situations, as stated supra.
Most laws made by superior beings, superior bodies, or the state, are indicators and imposer of consistent realities.
I hope my definition is clear to you now.
Conclusion: Meaning and Definition of Law
There is no reason whatsoever to assert that this definition may not be defective in some sense and situations. I do not affirm that its 100% yet.
But until one of these situations is brought to my realisation and justified adequately with sufficient rational evidences, I guess this definition satisfies all propensities to be regarded as a reasonable all-embracing definition of LAW.
According to Professor Okuniga, nobody including the lawyer has given. Nobody including the lawyer is giving. And Nobody including the lawyer will ever be able to give a definition of law to end all definitions.
But we do rest our hopes on these word? For what lies behind and before us, are tiny matters to what lies within us. If you get my gist.
So, there you have the definitions and meaning of law.
I hope I’ve been able to help your research in someway, or increase your knowledge.
Thanks for reading. Leave a comment.
Merriam Webster Dictionary
Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary
Inioluwa Olaposi is a Law student at Obafemi Awolowo Universities, Ile-Ife, Nigeria. Before LawHub NG, he started publishing law-related posts on his former multi-niche website.