Open main menu



law unto oneself (countable and uncountable, plural laws unto themselves)

  1. One who is free from the constraints of law or rules.
    • 1819, Edward Hyde Earl of Clarendon, The History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England:
      If you take away the law, all things will fall into a confusion, every man will become a law unto himself; which, in the depraved condition of human nature, must needs produce many great enormities.
    • 1910, Basil King, The Wild Olive:
      The noiseless leaping forward of the canoe beneath him heightened his sense of breaking with the past and hastening onward into another life. In that life he would be a new creature, free to be a law unto himself.
    • 1984, David Little, Religion, Order, and Law, →ISBN, page 134:
      The king, of course, was regarded as the central focus of traditional English institutions. By no means should he rule arbitrarily, nor was he a law unto himself.
    • 2011, Evan Fox-Decent, Sovereignty's Promise: The State as Fiduciary, →ISBN, page 211:
      The idea that administrators exercise authority as 'laws unto themselves' is one that applies in the first instance to exercises of discretion rather than to interpretations of law.
  2. One who flouts the law or conventional wisdom; one who ignores rules or logic to behave according to his or her own standards.
    • 2009, Tom Head, Freedom of Religion, →ISBN, page 45:
      Can a man excuse his practices to the contrary because of his religious belief? To permit this would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself.
    • 2015, Mark Timlin, Ashes By Now: The hard-boiled exploits of a South London Private Eye, →ISBN:
      It was the first time I'd told Collier what I knew, but it didn't seem to worry him at all. He'd had too many years of being a law unto himself, and he took it in his stride.
    • 2015, Lisa McInerney, The Glorious Heresies, →ISBN:
      'You're sure your dad won't come home?' she said. 'He won't,' he said, though his father was a law unto himself and couldn't be trusted to follow reason.
    • 2015, Diana Palmer, Heart Of Ice, →ISBN:
      "Doesn't he realize the difference between fiction and fact?” “Not if he doesn't want to,” she said with a short laugh. “Egan makes up his rules as he goes along. He's a law unto himself out West.”
  3. One who behaves with integrity; One who is lawful in the absence of an enforced law.
    • 1850, Charles Ferme, ‎William Lindsay Alexander, A Logical Analysis of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans, page 27:
      The first is : — Those who are a law unto themselves are not without law : The Gentiles are a law unto themselves : Therefore they are not without law. The assumption is thus proved : — Those who, having not the written law, do by nature the things which are of the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves : But the Gentiles, having not the written law, do by nature the things which are of the law : Wherefore they are a law unto themselves.
    • 1869, The Law of Love and Love as a Law:
      So is man, who is made in his image, a law unto himself ; and it is because man is made in his image that God proposes to him the very same end as a ground of obligation which He himself recognizes.
    • 2014, Alexander Somek, The Cosmopolitan Constitution, →ISBN:
      According to this understanding one is self-determining if one is a law unto oneself. Being a law unto oneself requires being true to oneself. The “self-given” law is the law on the ground of which the self is what it is.