blue law


blue law
any puritanical law that forbids certain practices, esp. drinking or working on Sunday, dancing, etc. Cf. sumptuary law.
[1775-85, Amer.]

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U.S. statute regulating work, commerce, and amusements on Sundays.

The name is said to derive from a list of Sabbath regulations published (on blue paper or in blue wrappers) in New Haven, Conn., in 1781. Throughout colonial New England such laws regulated morals and conduct. Most lapsed after the American Revolution, but some, such as prohibitions against the Sunday sale of alcoholic beverages, remain on the books in some areas.

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▪ American history
      in U.S. history, a law forbidding certain secular activities on Sunday. The name may derive from Samuel A. Peters's General History of Connecticut (1781), which purported to list the stiff Sabbath regulations at New Haven, Connecticut; the work was printed on blue paper. A more probable derivation is based on an 18th-century usage of the word blue meaning “rigidly moral” in a disparaging sense. Strictest in Puritan, Bible-oriented communities, blue laws usually forbade regular work on Sunday, plus any buying, selling, traveling, public entertainment, or sports. Peters's account of the New Haven Puritan government's codes has been proved unreliable. Among the 45 blue laws he listed in his History (1781) that were wholly or substantially true, however, are the following: “The judges shall determine controversies without a jury”; “married persons must live together or be imprisoned”; “a wife shall be good evidence against her husband”; and “the selectmen, on finding children ignorant, may take them away from their parents and put them into better hands, at the expense of their parents.” To some degree, similar laws existed in all the American colonies. In general, they lapsed after the American Revolution. As late as the 1990s, however, blue laws remained on the statutes in some states, and their influence has persisted wherever public activity on Sunday is regulated.

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • blue law — n [blue puritanical]: a statute regulating work, commerce, and amusements on Sunday ◇ Existing blue laws derive from the numerous extremely rigorous laws designed to regulate morals and conduct that were enacted in colonial New England. Merriam… …   Law dictionary

  • blue law — ☆ blue law n. [said to be so named because orig. printed on blue paper] 1. any of the strict puritanical laws prevalent in colonial New England 2. a law prohibiting entertainment, business, etc. on Sunday …   English World dictionary

  • blue law — blue′ law n. 1) law any law that forbids certain practices, as doing business or dancing, on Sunday 2) any of the puritanical laws of colonial New England regulating personal conduct • Etymology: 1775–85, amer …   From formal English to slang

  • blue law — n AmE a law used in the past in the US to control activities that were considered immoral, such as drinking alcohol and working on Sundays …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • Blue law — A blue law is a type of law in the United States and Canada designed to enforce moral standards, particularly the observance of Sunday as a day of worship or rest, and a restriction on Sunday shopping. Most have been repealed, declared… …   Wikipedia

  • blue law — noun a statute regulating work on Sundays • Topics: ↑law, ↑jurisprudence • Hypernyms: ↑law * * * noun Etymology: blue (I) (puritanical) …   Useful english dictionary

  • blue law — noun N. Amer. a law prohibiting certain activities, such as shopping, on a Sunday. Origin C18: in ref. to strict puritanical laws in colonial New England, orig. printed on blue paper …   English new terms dictionary

  • blue law — noun A law that is intended to enforce moral standards …   Wiktionary

  • blue law — noun (C) AmE a law to control sexual morals, the drinking of alcohol, working on Sundays etc; licensing laws BrE …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

  • blue law — noun Date: 1781 1. one of numerous extremely rigorous laws designed to regulate morals and conduct in colonial New England 2. a statute regulating work, commerce, and amusements on Sundays …   New Collegiate Dictionary


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