Iustitia ("Lady Justice") is a symbolic personification of the coercive power of a tribunal: a sword representing state authority, scales representing an objective standard, and a blindfold indicating that justice should be impartial.[1]

Law is a system of rules that are created and enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior.[2] It has been defined both as "the Science of Justice" and "the Art of Justice".[3][4] Law is a system that regulates and ensures that individuals or a community adhere to the will of the state. State-enforced laws can be made by a collective legislature or by a single legislator, resulting in statutes, by the executive through decrees and regulations, or established by judges through precedent, normally in common law jurisdictions. Private individuals can create legally binding contracts, including arbitration agreements that may elect to accept alternative arbitration to the normal court process. The formation of laws themselves may be influenced by a constitution, written or tacit, and the rights encoded therein. The law shapes politics, economics, history and society in various ways and serves as a mediator of relations between people.

A general distinction can be made between (a) civil law jurisdictions, in which a legislature or other central body codifies and consolidates their laws, and (b) common law systems, where judge-made precedent is accepted as binding law. Historically, religious laws played a significant role even in settling of secular matters, and is still used in some religious communities. Islamic Sharia law is the world's most widely used religious law, and is used as the primary legal system in some countries, such as Iran and Saudi Arabia.[5]

The adjudication of the law is generally divided into two main areas. Criminal law deals with conduct that is considered harmful to social order and in which the guilty party may be imprisoned or fined. Civil law (not to be confused with civil law jurisdictions above) deals with the resolution of lawsuits (disputes) between individuals and/or organizations.[6]

Law provides a source of scholarly inquiry into legal history, philosophy, economic analysis and sociology. Law also raises important and complex issues concerning equality, fairness, and justice.


Mainstream definitions

Numerous definitions of law have been put forward over the centuries. The Third New International Dictionary from Merriam-Webster[7] defines law as: "Law is a binding custom or practice of a community; a rule or mode of conduct or action that is prescribed or formally recognized as binding by a supreme controlling authority or is made obligatory by a sanction (as an edict, decree, rescript, order, ordinance, statute, resolution, rule, judicial decision, or usage) made, recognized, or enforced by the controlling authority."

The Dictionary of the History of Ideas published by Scribner's in 1973 defined the concept of law accordingly as: "A legal system is the most explicit, institutionalized, and complex mode of regulating human conduct. At the same time, it plays only one part in the congeries of rules which influence behavior, for social and moral rules of a less institutionalized kind are also of great importance."[8]

Whether it is possible or desirable to define law

There have been several attempts to produce "a universally acceptable definition of law". In 1972, one source indicated that no such definition could be produced.[9] McCoubrey and White said that the question "what is law?" has no simple answer.[10] Glanville Williams said that the meaning of the word "law" depends on the context in which that word is used. He said that, for example, "early customary law" and "municipal law" were contexts where the word "law" had two different and irreconcilable meanings.[11] Thurman Arnold said that it is obvious that it is impossible to define the word "law" and that it is also equally obvious that the struggle to define that word should not ever be abandoned.[12] It is possible to take the view that there is no need to define the word "law" (e.g. "let's forget about generalities and get down to cases").[13]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Reg
Alemannisch: Recht
አማርኛ: ሕግ
العربية: قانون
aragonés: Dreito
ܐܪܡܝܐ: ܩܢܘܢܐ
asturianu: Derechu
Avañe'ẽ: Tekoiterape
azərbaycanca: Hüquq
تۆرکجه: حوقوق
bamanankan: Sàrìya
বাংলা: আইন
Bân-lâm-gú: Hoat-lu̍t
башҡортса: Хоҡуҡ
беларуская: Права
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Права
भोजपुरी: कानून
български: Право
Boarisch: Recht
བོད་ཡིག: ཁྲིམས།
bosanski: Pravo
brezhoneg: Gwir (lezenn)
буряад: Хуули
català: Dret
Cebuano: Pamalaod
čeština: Právo
Chamoru: Lai
corsu: Drittu
Cymraeg: Cyfraith
dansk: Jura
Deutsch: Recht
eesti: Õigus
Ελληνικά: Δίκαιο
español: Derecho
Esperanto: Juro
estremeñu: Derechu
euskara: Zuzenbide
فارسی: حقوق
Fiji Hindi: Kanuun
français: Droit
Frysk: Rjocht
furlan: Dirit
Gaeilge: Dlí
Gaelg: Leigh
Gàidhlig: Lagh
galego: Dereito
客家語/Hak-kâ-ngî: Fap-li̍t
հայերեն: Իրավունք
Արեւմտահայերէն: Իրաւունք
हिन्दी: विधि
hrvatski: Pravo
Ilokano: Linteg
Bahasa Indonesia: Hukum
interlingua: Derecto
Interlingue: Jure
Ирон: Барад
isiXhosa: Umthetho
íslenska: Lögfræði
italiano: Diritto
עברית: דין
ಕನ್ನಡ: ಕಾನೂನು
къарачай-малкъар: Хакъ
ქართული: სამართალი
қазақша: Құқық
Kiswahili: Sheria
коми: Инӧд
Kreyòl ayisyen: Lwa (dwa)
kurdî: Dad
Кыргызча: Укук
Ladino: Dirito
Latina: Ius
latviešu: Tieslietas
Lëtzebuergesch: Droit
lietuvių: Teisė
Ligure: Diritto
Limburgs: Rech
Lingua Franca Nova: Lege
la .lojban.: flalu
magyar: Jog
मैथिली: कानून
македонски: Право
Malagasy: Lalàna
മലയാളം: നിയമം
Malti: Dritt
Māori: Ture
मराठी: कायदा
მარგალური: სამართალი
مصرى: قانون
Bahasa Melayu: Undang-undang
Minangkabau: Hukum
Mìng-dĕ̤ng-ngṳ̄: Huák-lŭk
Mirandés: Dreito
монгол: Хууль
မြန်မာဘာသာ: ဥပဒေ
Nederlands: Recht
Nedersaksies: Recht
नेपाली: कानुन
日本語: 法 (法学)
нохчийн: Бакъо
Nordfriisk: Rocht
Nouormand: Loué
occitan: Drech
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Huquq
ਪੰਜਾਬੀ: ਕਾਨੂੰਨ
پنجابی: قنون
پښتو: حقوق
Patois: Laa
ភាសាខ្មែរ: ច្បាប់
Piemontèis: Lej
Plattdüütsch: Juristeree
polski: Prawo
português: Direito
română: Drept
Runa Simi: Chiqa
русиньскый: Право
русский: Право
sardu: Deretu
Scots: Law
shqip: Ligji
sicilianu: Liggi
සිංහල: නීතිය
Simple English: Law
سنڌي: قانون
slovenčina: Objektívne právo
slovenščina: Pravo
Soomaaliga: Sharci
کوردی: یاسا
српски / srpski: Право
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Pravo
Basa Sunda: Hukum
suomi: Laki
svenska: Juridik
Tagalog: Batas
தமிழ்: சட்டம்
татарча/tatarça: Хокук
тоҷикӣ: Ҳуқуқ
Türkçe: Hukuk
українська: Право
اردو: قانون
Vahcuengh: Faplwd
vèneto: Lexe e derito
Tiếng Việt: Luật pháp
文言: 法律
Winaray: Balaud
吴语: 法律
Xitsonga: Nawu
ייִדיש: געזעץ
Yorùbá: Òfin
粵語: 法律
Zazaki: Hıquq
Zeêuws: Recht
žemaitėška: Teisė
中文: 法律