Legal v. Lawful
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Legal and lawful
Lawful and legal differ in that ‘lawful’ contemplates the substance of law [its content], whereas ‘legal’ alludes to the form of law [its form or appearance].
The adjective LAWFUL has 4 senses:
1. Conformable to or allowed by law
2. According to custom or rule or natural law
3. Authorized, sanctioned by, or in accordance with law
4. Having a legally established claim
To say an act is “lawful” implies that it is authorized, sanctioned, or at any rate not forbidden, by law. The term lawful more clearly suggests an ethical content than does the word legal.
Legal denotes compliance with technical or formal rules. To say that an act 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.”