Law: Meaning, Definition and its Kinds


Law is derived from the German word ‘Lag’ means fixed or evenly. Politically, as per regulations and rules, Law is enforced by the State to regulate human conduct for the administration of Justice.

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Meaning of Law:

According to Merriam Webster Dictionary, the meaning of the law is;

“A binding custom or practice of a community”.

Definition of Law:

According to Austin:

Law is defined as;

“Law is the command of a sovereign, it imposes a duty and is backed by Sanction”. Or “Law is the aggregate of rules set by men as politically superior, or sovereign, to men as politically subject”.

According to Salmond:

“Law is the body of principles, recognized and applied by the state for the administration of justice”.

According to Prof. Polland:

“Law is a general rule of external human actions enforced by the sovereign, the political authority”.

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The Law in Rem and Law in Personam:

The law in rem relates to the enforcement of rights that a person has against the whole world or against the people in general whereas law in personam deals with the enforcement of rights available against a definite person or persons.

For example, the law of inheritance, succession, ownership, etc., comprise the subject matter of law in rem while the law of contract, trust, etc., are the species of law in personam.

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Kinds of Law:

There are eight kinds of law which are discussed here as follows:

  1. Imperative or Positive law.
  2. Physical or scientific law.
  3. Natural or moral law.
  4. Conventional law.
  5. Customary law.
  6. Practical or Technical law.
  7. International law.
  8. Civil law.

1. Imperative Law or Positive Law:

Positive law is a rule that prescribes a general course of action imposed by some authority that enforces it by a superior power, either by physical force or another sort of compulsion. The requirements of an imperative law are: –

  1. It must be a general rule;
  2. There must be some authority behind it; and
  3. It must be enforced by superior power by physical force or compulsion.

2. Physical or Scientific Law:

Physical or scientific laws are expressions of the uniformities of nature or uniformity in the conduct of living beings or lifeless things.

For example, the law of motion, gravitation, and of chemical reactions.

The uniformity in the conduct of animate or inanimate objects is known as Physical law which governs that object.

3. Natural or Moral Law:

Natural or Moral law is also known as divine law, the law of reason, the unwritten law, the universal law, the common law, and the eternal law. According to Salmond; “By natural law or moral law is meant the principles of natural right and wrong”.

4. Conventional law:

Convention means agreement. Conventional law must have an agreement between two parties- and not the force or coercion of a superior. It is thus the name given to a body of rules agreed to be followed by some parties in order to regulate their conduct towards one another. These are laws because they ensure uniformity of conduct.

For example, the rules of cricket and other games. International law is also a species of conventional law.

Such Laws may be in two types:

1). Rules enforced by the parties themselves but not recognized by the State, e.g., the rules of cricket and other games.

2). Rules recognized and enforced by the State, e.g., the articles of association of a limited company whereby the shareholders agree to be bound in certain particulars.

5. Customary Law:

Customary law means such rules of custom as habitually being followed by the majority of persons, subject to them, since a long time in the past and are expected to be followed in the future as well in the belief of their binding nature.

“Such laws derive their force from the long course of past conduct resulting in the same uniformity of action in a given set of circumstances”.

Essentials of Customs:

  1. Reasonableness
  2. Unambiguous usage observed
  3. Peacefully
  4. Continuously
  5. Since immemorial antiquity
  6. As of right
  7. In conformity with the statute

6. Practical or Technical Law:

Practical laws are such laws consisting of rules which are to be followed to achieve uniformity of results in practical or technical matters, e.g., the laws of health, the laws of architecture or manufacture.

7. International Law:

According to Salmond; “Those rules which govern the sovereign state in their relations and conduct towards each other”.

According to Lord Russel; “The aggregate of rules to which nations have agreed to conform in their conduct towards one another”.

8. Civil Law:

The words “civil law” owe their origin to the Romans who described it as applicable to their own citizens as jus civile, as distinguished from jus gentium which applied to foreigners. In jurisprudence, civil law means laws of the land as are enforced by the courts.


In conclusion, the definition of Law is that it is the body of principles that are recognized and enforced by the State for the administration of Justice. It is difficult to give it a comprehensive and perfect definition. As it is a social science that grows and develops with the growth and development of society.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the 3 most common types of law?

The 3 most common types of law are criminal, civil, and administrative. Each of us experiences these laws on a daily basis without thought – from the mundane act of parking in a designated area to more serious issues like robberies. However, the funniest thing about these laws is that no one really understands them; the only ones who benefit are lawyers!

What is John Austin’s definition of law?

John Austin’s definition of law is very clear and concise. It is the command of a sovereign, backed by the threat of sanctions.

What is an example of a law?

An example of a law is the requirement to wear a seatbelt in a car.