Top 36 Slang For Illegal – Meaning & Usage

When it comes to discussing topics that are not always openly talked about, such as activities that are considered illegal, it’s important to be aware of the slang terms that may be used. Our team has delved into this realm to bring you a curated list of some of the most common slang words associated with illegal activities. Stay informed and in-the-know by exploring this listicle that sheds light on this often hush-hush subject.

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1. Illy

This term is a slang word for “illegal”. It is often used to describe activities or substances that are against the law.

  • For example, someone might say, “He’s involved in some illy business.”
  • In a conversation about prohibited substances, one might say, “I heard they’re selling illy drugs on the street.”
  • Another person might warn, “Be careful, that’s an illy operation you’re getting involved with.”

2. Dirty

In the context of slang, “dirty” is often used to describe something that is illegal or unethical. It can refer to actions, deals, or individuals involved in illicit activities.

  • For instance, someone might say, “He’s got his hands in some dirty business.”
  • In a discussion about corrupt practices, one might say, “The politicians involved in that deal are dirty.”
  • A person warning others might say, “Stay away from that guy, he’s known for his dirty dealings.”

3. Under the table

This phrase is used to describe activities that are done secretly or without official knowledge or documentation. It often refers to illegal or unreported transactions or payments.

  • For example, someone might say, “They paid me under the table to avoid taxes.”
  • In a conversation about employment practices, one might say, “Some companies hire workers under the table to avoid labor laws.”
  • Another person might confess, “I received some money under the table for doing a job off the books.”

4. Off the books

This term refers to activities or transactions that are not recorded or reported officially. It can imply illegal or hidden actions that are not documented or accounted for.

  • For instance, someone might say, “They paid me off the books to avoid taxes.”
  • In a discussion about financial practices, one might say, “Some businesses keep certain transactions off the books to hide their true profits.”
  • A person might admit, “I did some work off the books for extra cash, but it’s not something I’m proud of.”

5. Black market

The black market refers to an underground or illegal market where goods or services are bought and sold outside of the official channels or without government regulation. It often involves illegal or prohibited items.

  • For example, someone might say, “They bought that product on the black market.”
  • In a conversation about counterfeit goods, one might say, “There’s a thriving black market for fake designer bags.”
  • Another person might warn, “Don’t get involved in the black market, it’s dangerous and illegal.”

6. Bootleg

Bootleg refers to something that is made, distributed, or sold illegally or without proper authorization. It is often used to describe counterfeit goods or unauthorized copies of media such as music or movies.

  • For example, “I bought a bootleg DVD of the latest movie from a street vendor.”
  • A person might say, “He’s known for selling bootleg merchandise at the flea market.”
  • In a discussion about illegal activities, someone might mention, “Bootlegging alcohol was a common practice during Prohibition.”

7. Shady

Shady is a slang term used to describe something or someone that is suspicious, untrustworthy, or involved in illegal activities.

  • For instance, “I don’t trust that guy, he seems shady.”
  • A person might say, “I saw some shady characters hanging around that abandoned building.”
  • In a discussion about scams, someone might warn, “Be careful, there are a lot of shady websites out there.”

8. Illicit

Illicit refers to something that is forbidden, prohibited, or not permitted by law. It is often used to describe activities or substances that are illegal or against regulations.

  • For example, “The production and sale of illicit drugs is a major problem.”
  • A person might say, “He’s involved in illicit activities, but no one can prove it.”
  • In a discussion about black market trade, someone might mention, “Illicit goods are often sold at a higher price due to their illegal nature.”

9. Unlawful

Unlawful means something that is not permitted or allowed by law. It is often used to describe actions or behaviors that are illegal or against regulations.

  • For instance, “Driving under the influence of alcohol is unlawful.”
  • A person might say, “He was arrested for unlawful possession of a firearm.”
  • In a discussion about civil rights, someone might argue, “Discrimination based on race is unlawful and unconstitutional.”

10. Illegit

Illegit is a slang term used to describe something that is illegitimate or unauthorized. It is often used to refer to activities or items that are not legally recognized or approved.

  • For example, “He’s selling illegit copies of popular video games.”
  • A person might say, “That business is operating in the shadows, selling illegit products.”
  • In a discussion about fraud, someone might warn, “Be careful, there are a lot of illegit schemes out there.”

11. Clandestine

This term refers to something that is done secretly or in a concealed manner, often relating to illegal activities. It implies a sense of stealth or hiddenness.

  • For example, a spy might engage in clandestine operations to gather classified information.
  • In a discussion about illegal drug trade, someone might mention, “Clandestine labs are often used to produce illicit substances.”
  • A journalist investigating corruption might uncover a clandestine network of bribes and kickbacks.
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12. Contraband

Contraband refers to goods or items that are prohibited or forbidden by law. It can include items that are smuggled, prohibited from import or export, or in possession without proper authorization.

  • For instance, drugs and weapons are common examples of contraband.
  • In a discussion about prison security, someone might mention, “Contraband items, such as cell phones, can be a major issue in correctional facilities.”
  • Customs officers often seize contraband at border checkpoints to prevent illegal trafficking.

13. Illegitimate

Illegitimate refers to something that is not recognized as lawful or valid. It can describe actions, relationships, or products that are not in accordance with the law or accepted standards.

  • For example, an illegitimate business might operate without proper licenses or permits.
  • In a legal context, someone might argue, “The evidence was obtained through illegitimate means and should be excluded.”
  • A person discussing political movements might say, “The government considers any opposition as illegitimate and suppresses dissent.”

14. Subversive

Subversive refers to something that seeks to undermine or overthrow established systems, institutions, or authority. It implies a desire to disrupt or challenge the status quo.

  • For instance, subversive activities can include spreading propaganda or inciting rebellion.
  • In a discussion about political dissent, someone might say, “The government views any criticism as subversive and cracks down on dissenters.”
  • A writer might describe a controversial book as “a subversive exploration of societal norms.”

15. Unauthorized

Unauthorized refers to something that is done or accessed without proper permission, approval, or authority. It implies a violation of rules or regulations.

  • For example, unauthorized access to a computer system is considered hacking.
  • In a discussion about copyright infringement, someone might mention, “Sharing copyrighted material without permission is unauthorized.”
  • A security guard might warn, “Unauthorized personnel are not allowed beyond this point.”

16. Covert

Refers to something that is done in a concealed or hidden manner, often to avoid detection or scrutiny.

  • For example, “The spy operated in a covert manner, gathering information without anyone suspecting.”
  • In a discussion about undercover operations, someone might say, “Covert operations are essential for gathering intelligence.”
  • A person discussing illegal activities might use the term, “They conducted a covert operation to smuggle drugs across the border.”

17. Hush-hush

Describes something that is kept secret or not widely known.

  • For instance, “The company’s new product launch was kept hush-hush until the official announcement.”
  • In a conversation about classified information, someone might say, “That’s top secret, so keep it hush-hush.”
  • A person discussing illegal activities might comment, “They conducted their business in a hush-hush manner to avoid attracting attention.”

18. Furtive

Refers to actions or behavior that is characterized by an attempt to avoid notice or attention, often due to illicit or suspicious activities.

  • For example, “He cast furtive glances around the room, trying to see if anyone was watching.”
  • In a discussion about theft, someone might say, “The thief made a furtive attempt to steal the wallet without being noticed.”
  • A person discussing illegal activities might comment, “They engaged in furtive behavior to avoid detection by law enforcement.”

19. Rogue

Describes someone who operates outside the boundaries of the law or established rules.

  • For instance, “The rogue hacker breached the company’s security system.”
  • In a conversation about organized crime, someone might say, “He’s a known rogue who operates outside the control of any criminal organization.”
  • A person discussing illegal activities might comment, “Rogue actors often pose a challenge to law enforcement due to their unpredictable nature.”

20. Illegally

Refers to actions or behavior that is contrary to or in violation of the law.

  • For example, “He obtained the classified documents illegally.”
  • In a discussion about immigration, someone might say, “Entering the country illegally is a criminal offense.”
  • A person discussing illegal activities might comment, “They conducted their business illegally, disregarding regulations and licensing requirements.”

21. Illegal

This term refers to something that is prohibited or not allowed by law. It is used to describe activities or items that are considered unlawful.

  • For example, “Selling drugs is illegal in most countries.”
  • A person discussing a controversial topic might say, “Some argue that marijuana should no longer be illegal.”
  • In a news article, one might read, “The suspect was arrested for illegal possession of firearms.”

22. Underground

This term is used to describe activities or operations that are conducted secretly or outside of the mainstream. It often refers to illegal activities that take place outside of the law’s purview.

  • For instance, “The underground drug trade operates in secrecy.”
  • In a discussion about unauthorized streaming sites, one might say, “Many movies can be found on underground websites.”
  • A person discussing the black market might mention, “Counterfeit goods are often sold on the underground market.”

23. Gray market

This term refers to a market or trade that operates in a legal gray area, where the legality of certain activities or goods is unclear or ambiguous.

  • For example, “Importing certain products without proper documentation can be considered part of the gray market.”
  • A person discussing unauthorized resale might say, “Some online platforms facilitate gray market transactions.”
  • In a news article about unregulated industries, one might read, “The gray market for dietary supplements is a growing concern.”

24. Smuggled

This term is used to describe the act of illegally transporting goods or people across borders or boundaries, often to evade customs or immigration authorities.

  • For instance, “The drugs were smuggled across the border in hidden compartments.”
  • In a discussion about wildlife trafficking, one might say, “Endangered animals are often smuggled for the illegal pet trade.”
  • A person discussing contraband might mention, “Smuggled cigarettes are sold at a lower price than legally purchased ones.”

25. Prohibited

This term refers to something that is explicitly forbidden or not allowed by law, rules, or regulations. It is used to describe activities or items that are explicitly prohibited.

  • For example, “Alcohol consumption is prohibited for individuals under the legal drinking age.”
  • A person discussing firearms might say, “Certain types of weapons are prohibited for civilian ownership.”
  • In a news article about banned substances, one might read, “The sale of prohibited drugs can result in severe penalties.”

26. Outlawed

This term refers to something that has been officially prohibited or made illegal by law. It can apply to various activities, substances, or behaviors.

  • For example, “The sale of ivory has been outlawed in many countries to protect endangered elephants.”
  • In a discussion about drug policy, someone might say, “Marijuana was outlawed in the United States until recently.”
  • A person advocating for stricter gun control might argue, “Assault weapons should be outlawed to reduce gun violence.”

27. Fugitive

A fugitive is a person who is running away or evading law enforcement, typically because they are wanted for committing a crime. It can also refer to someone who has escaped from prison or custody.

  • For instance, “The police are searching for the fugitive who escaped from jail last night.”
  • In a true crime documentary, a narrator might say, “The fugitive managed to elude capture for months.”
  • A news report might state, “The FBI has issued a reward for information leading to the capture of the fugitive.”

28. Outlaw

An outlaw is a person who has been declared an outlaw by legal authorities, meaning they have been excluded from the protection of the law. It can also refer to someone who engages in criminal activities outside of the law.

  • For example, “The notorious outlaw was known for robbing banks and eluding the police.”
  • In a discussion about historical figures, someone might mention, “Jesse James was a famous outlaw during the Wild West era.”
  • A person discussing organized crime might say, “The mafia is a network of outlaws who operate outside of the legal system.”

29. Bootlegged

To “bootleg” something means to produce, distribute, or sell it illegally, usually referring to copyrighted material such as music, movies, or merchandise.

  • For instance, “He was arrested for bootlegging DVDs of newly released movies.”
  • In a conversation about counterfeit goods, someone might mention, “Bootlegged merchandise can be of poor quality and support illegal activities.”
  • A person discussing music piracy might say, “Downloading bootlegged songs without permission is a violation of copyright laws.”

30. Pirate

In the context of illegal activities, a pirate is someone who engages in unauthorized copying, distribution, or sharing of digital content, such as software, movies, or music. It can also refer to someone who hijacks or steals intellectual property.

  • For example, “Internet piracy has led to significant financial losses for the entertainment industry.”
  • In a discussion about software piracy, someone might say, “Pirates distribute cracked versions of popular programs.”
  • A person advocating for stronger copyright laws might argue, “Pirates should be held accountable for their infringement on intellectual property rights.”

31. Hot

This term is often used to describe goods or items that have been stolen or acquired illegally. It can also refer to something that is currently illegal or prohibited.

  • For example, “He’s selling hot merchandise out of the back of his truck.”
  • In a discussion about illegal activities, someone might say, “That’s a hot operation they’re running.”
  • A person warning against illegal actions might say, “Don’t get involved in anything hot, it’s not worth the risk.”

32. Crooked

This term is used to describe someone who is involved in illegal or dishonest activities. It can refer to individuals who engage in bribery, fraud, or other forms of corruption.

  • For instance, “He’s a crooked politician who takes bribes.”
  • In a discussion about dishonest business practices, someone might say, “That company has a reputation for being crooked.”
  • A person warning against shady dealings might say, “Stay away from that crooked operation, it’s bound to get you in trouble.”

33. Illegally obtained

This phrase refers to something that has been acquired or obtained in a way that is against the law or without proper authorization. It can apply to various situations, such as stolen goods or illegally obtained documents.

  • For example, “Those documents were illegally obtained and cannot be used as evidence.”
  • In a discussion about illegal activities, someone might say, “He’s been selling illegally obtained goods for years.”
  • A person warning against participating in illegal actions might say, “Don’t get involved in anything that’s illegally obtained, it’s a serious offense.”

34. Criminal

This term is used to describe someone who has committed a crime or engaged in illegal activities. It can refer to individuals who have been convicted of a crime or are involved in ongoing criminal behavior.

  • For instance, “He’s a known criminal with a long rap sheet.”
  • In a discussion about crime rates, someone might say, “The city has seen an increase in criminal activity.”
  • A person warning against associating with criminals might say, “Stay away from that group, they’re all criminals.”

35. Felonious

This term is used to describe actions or behaviors that are considered felonies, which are serious criminal offenses. It can refer to illegal activities that carry significant penalties or imprisonment.

  • For example, “He was charged with felonious assault for the attack.”
  • In a discussion about criminal law, someone might say, “Felonious acts are punished more severely than misdemeanors.”
  • A person warning against engaging in unlawful actions might say, “Think twice before committing any felonious acts, the consequences are severe.”

36. Lawless

Lawless refers to a state or situation where there are no laws or regulations in place. It can be used to describe an area or community that operates outside of the legal system.

  • For example, “The town had become lawless, with crime running rampant.”
  • In a discussion about organized crime, someone might say, “The gang operated in a lawless underworld.”
  • A person advocating for stricter regulations might argue, “We need to crack down on lawless behavior to protect our communities.”