English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Over the last few years I've noticed more news stories referring to elected representatives as 'lawmaker' rather than Senator, Congressman, Member of Parliament or whatever specific title they might enjoy.

I presume that it must be a matter for a local style guide that various organisations habitually use it; I first noticed it with Bloomberg (e.g.), but if you search any major news website, you will probably see examples.

In many situations the people being described are more than just lawmakers, they represent a constituency, sit of committees of oversight and similar roles that are at least as important as making laws. In the UK, they are members of Parliament, not just 'lawmakers'.

I have taken quite an irrational dislike to the word and I'm looking to make my opinion more rational. Why should 'lawmaker' be used, given that it seems to represent only a part of the responsibilities of the people generally described?

share|improve this question
Noting you're from the UK, and your reference to MPs (Members of Parliament - not Military Police!), I assume you're asking specifically about US publications? If so, it might be worth mentioning that in the question - and tags. – TrevorD Jun 12 '13 at 13:36
See syncedoche and metonym. – Matt E. Эллен Jun 12 '13 at 14:39
Perhaps someone knew the meaning of "legislature"... – GEdgar Jun 12 '13 at 14:43

You said it yourself: "[Lawmaking]seems to represent only a part of the responsibilities of the people generally described [as lawmakers]."

As Matt points out, "lawmaker" can be used synecdochically, since lawmaking is a "part" of the "whole" of what MCs (members of Congress) do.

I suggest lawmaking is a significant part of what MCs do, in part because of the far-reaching effects of the laws they pass; therefore, the synecdochal "lawmaker" is a legitimate substitute for a member of Congress.

Thank goodness for the various Acts of Congress over the years, such as the Clean Water Act or the Clean Air Act, which have safeguarded our air and water against large-scale polluters for decades.

Where does "lawmaking" rank in the top ten of MCs' work duties? Ten percent? Twenty-five percent? Fifty percent? I don't know, but such things could be determined. I have a feeling, though, the amount of time spent devoted to this one area is not insignificant.

A cynic might suggest that MCs' number one job is getting re-elected! Perhaps, therefore, we should call MCs "campaigners."

I have a feeling MCs would not be insulted one whit by the "lawmaker" appellation. We have a saying in this country. When faced with a seemingly intractable problem that demands a solution, sooner than later, we say, "There oughtta be a law!"

Lawmaking may not be a panacea for all that ails us as a country, but it's an integral part of good government nevertheless.

P.S. As GEdgar points out, lawmakers are legislators. Word Origin & History: legislature, 1670s, ult. from L. legis lator "a proposer of a law" (see legislator). (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/legislature?s=t)

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.