What Does Above The Law Mean?

Above the Law Meaning

Definition: Not required to obey the law.

People often use this expression to say that a person thinks that he or she is above the law, but, in actuality, the person is not above the law.

Origin of Above the Law

It is unclear exactly how and when this expression originated. However, the word law has existed since at least the year 1000, and the idiom above the law was in use by the 1600s.

Examples of Above the Law

nobody is above the law meaningIn this dialogue, one employee caught her boss stealing. She and her coworker are discussing what to do about it.

Deanna: Emily, I need some advice. I caught our boss stealing money from an employee’s purse. I’m not sure what to do.

Emily: Well, report her of course! Tell the director of the company.

Deanna: I’m worried that because she is my boss, they won’t believe me. Maybe she’ll even say I was the one who stole!

Emily: Luckily we have security cameras! She’s not above the law. I think you should go to the police first.

to be above the lawIn the second example, two athletes are shopping for some nice sports equipment when they see a man shoplifting.

Billy: Hey, Angie, look at that guy over there.

Angie: The guy in the big coat?

Billy: Yeah. He just slipped a bunch of stuff from the store into his coat.

Angie: Is he shoplifting?

Billy: Yeah! We should let the store employees know.

Angie: He’s not even trying to hide the fact that he’s stealing. He acts like he’s above the law.

Billy: Maybe he’s shoplifted here before, and no one has tried to stop him.

More Examples

The first excerpt is about someone’s opinion that police officers do not have to obey the law in Chicago.

  • This is a disgraceful decision that not only endangers the citizens of Chicago but also further emboldens a department that operates above the law. –Chicago Sun Times

This excerpt is about a city mayor who didn’t nominate one of the people that police officers had chosen to head the department. This is actually against the law. Therefore, another man is accusing the mayor of thinking he doesn’t need to follow the law.

  • To Ja’Mal Green, a leader of a youth movement for police accountability, Emanuel’s maneuver is evidence that he does not respect the process put in place by law. “I think that Rahm thinks he’s above the law, and we need to show him that he’s not,” said Green, 20. –Chicago Sun Times


The phrase above the law describes a person who is exempt from following the rules—or at least thinks he or she is exempt. Usually a person who is above the law has a very high government position or a lot of power.