AskDefine | Define loophole

Dictionary Definition

loophole

Noun

1 an ambiguity (especially one in the text of a law or contract) that makes it possible to evade a difficulty or obligation
2 a small hole in a fortified wall; for observation or discharging weapons

User Contributed Dictionary

English

Pronunciation

  • /ˈluːphəʊl/

Noun

  1. A method of escape, especially an ambiguity or exception in a rule that can be exploited in order to avoid its effect.
    • 1839, Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist
      Coupling the poor girl's intelligence with my previous knowledge, and the result of our good friend's inquiries on the spot, I left him no loophole of escape, and laid bare the whole villainy which by these lights became plain as day.
    • 2002, Two Weeks Notice (movie)
      You have a contract that says you will work until Island Towers is finalized, which I interpret as completion of construction, or I can stop you working elsewhere. And there's no loopholes, because you drafted it and you're the best.
  2. A slit in a castle wall. Later: any similar window for shooting a weapon or letting in light.
    • 1719, Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe
      ... and having a fair loophole, as it were, from a broken hole in the tree, he took a sure aim, without being seen, waiting till they were within about thirty yards of the tree, so that he could not miss.
    • 1809, Maria Edgeworth, The Absentee
      There was a loophole in this wall, to let the light in, just at the height of a person's head, who was sitting near the chimney.
    • 1949, George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four, p25
      The sun had shifted round, and the myriad windows of the Ministry of Truth, with the light no longer shining on them, looked grim as the loopholes of a fortress.

Translations

method of escape
slit in a castle wall

Extensive Definition

A loophole is a weakness or exception that allows a system, such as a law or security, to be circumvented or otherwise avoided. Loopholes are searched for and used strategically in a variety of circumstances, including taxes, elections, politics, the criminal justice system, or in breeches of security.
A loophole in a law often contravenes the intent of the law without technically breaking it. For example, in some places, one may avoid paying taxes to the jurisdiction by forming a second residence in another location, or a commercial property can be built in a residential zone if it is made also for residential use.
In a security system, the one who breaches the system (such as an inmate escaping from prison or a terrorist) exploits the loophole during breach. Such weaknesses are often studied in advance by the violator, who spends time observing and learning the routine of the system and sometimes conducts surreptitious tests until such a loophole can be found.
An example of a legal loophole:
  • In 2005, Wal-Mart planned a store in Calvert County, Maryland. While a law in the county restricted the size of a retail store to 75,000 square feet, Wal-Mart considered a plan that would dodge this restriction by building two separate smaller stores. Though Wal-Mart later withdrew this controversial plan, the plan highlighted a legal loophole.

References

loophole in German: Gesetzeslücke

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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