Law or Lore?

by Craig Shrives

What Is the Difference between "Law" and "Lore"?

"Law" and "lore" are easy to confuse because they sound identical (i.e., they are perfect homonyms). However, their meanings are very different.
  • "Law" means a rule (or a collection of rules) or a general principle (usually of science). For example:
    • You must abide by the law.
    • Why does it float? It is against the laws of science.
  • Colloquially, "the law" means the police.
    • She works for the law.
  • "Lore" is knowledge or tradition passed from generation to generation.
    • According to folklore, your face will stay like that if the wind changes.
  • "Lores" are the sides of a bird's head.
    • It was a large parrot with red lores.
law or lore?

More about "Law" and "Lore"

The words law and lore are homonyms (specifically, homophones) because they sound identical. However, they have difference meanings.


The noun "law" has three main meanings:

(1) A rule or collection of rules imposed by authority.

For example:
  • That is against the law.
  • He studied Law.
  • (Like "Mathematics" and "Science," "Law" is written with a capital letter when it refers to the subject for study.)
  • The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly. (US President Abraham Lincoln)
(2) A universal principle that describes something's fundamental nature.

For example:
  • The laws of physics
  • Kofi Annan told the international conference: "It has been said that arguing against globalization is like arguing against the laws of gravity."
  • Human judges can show mercy. But against the laws of nature, there is no appeal. (Writer Authur C Clarke)
  • (The first half of this quotation alludes to law meaning a rule imposed by authority, but the second half refers to law meaning something's fundamental characteristics.)
(3) The police (colloquial).

For example:
  • Run. It's the law.


The noun "lore" is most commonly seen in the word "folklore." "Lore" has two main meanings:

(1) Tradition or knowledge passed from generation to generation (often by word of mouth through legend or anecdote).

For example:
  • Vampire bats and good-looking, sophisticated vampires have only recently become part of the traditional vampire lore.
  • According to folklore, if it rains on St Swithin's Day, it will rain for the next 40 days.
  • (Folklore means traditional beliefs, legends, and customs.)
(2) The surfaces on each side of an animal's head (most commonly birds and snakes).

For example:
lores on a bird
yellow-lored Amazon parrot


There is no such word as "folklaw." It's "folklore."

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See Also

adverse or averse? affect or effect? appraise or apprise? avenge or revenge? bare or bear? complement or compliment? dependant or dependent? discreet or discrete? disinterested or uninterested? e.g. or i.e.? envy or jealousy? imply or infer? its or it's? material or materiel? poisonous or venomous? practice or practise? principal or principle? bear or bare with me? who's or whose? List of easily confused words

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