What Does “Above the Law” Mean?

Explore the meaning, history, and consequences of being "above the law". Discover how this concept affects society, justice, and ethics.

Understanding “Above the Law”

At its core, the idiom “above the law” means that someone or something is exempt from following the laws and rules that govern others.

This phrase is often used to describe individuals or groups who believe that they are so important or powerful that they do not need to obey the same laws as other citizens.

Definition and Origin

The phrase “above the law” is an idiom that can be traced back to at least the 16th century.

It is believed to have originated from the idea that those who held positions of power were exempt from the laws that governed the rest of society.

Today, the phrase is often used to describe individuals or groups who believe that they are above the law and can act with impunity.

Legal Implications

From a legal perspective, the idea of being “above the law” is problematic because it undermines the justice system and the rule of law.

In a democratic society, all citizens are expected to obey the law and are subject to the same legal processes and punishments.

When someone is exempt from these processes and punishments, it creates a system of inequality and undermines the principles of justice and fairness.

Is “Over the Top” Similar to Being “Above the Law”?

“Over the top” and “above the law” are not interchangeable terms.

While “above the law” implies someone is exempt from following rules, “over the top” means excessive or unnecessary.

It’s important to understand the meaning of “over the top” to use it correctly in conversation.

Social and Ethical Considerations

Beyond the legal implications, the idea of being “above the law” raises important social and ethical considerations.

When individuals or groups are exempt from following the same laws as other citizens, it can create a sense of resentment and anger among those who feel that they are being treated unfairly.

Additionally, it can create a culture of impunity where those in power are able to act without fear of punishment, which can lead to corruption and abuse of power.

In summary, being “above the law” means that someone or something is exempt from following the laws and rules that govern others.

This idea is problematic from a legal, social, and ethical perspective because it undermines the justice system and the principles of fairness and equality.

Example sentences:

  • The CEO of the company believed he was above the law and could get away with insider trading.
  • The politician’s connections made him feel like he was above the law and could break campaign finance rules without consequences.
  • The wealthy businessman thought he was above the law and refused to pay his taxes.

Synonyms: