Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Sabbath Breaking Definition:

Doing business on a Sunday.

Related Terms: Dies Dominicus Non Est Juridicus

A crime in not-so ancient English law. William Blackstone, in Book 4 of his Commentaries on the Law of England, wrote:

“Profanation of the Lord’s Day, or sabbath-breaking, in a ninth offence against God and religion, punished by the municipal laws of England. For, besides the notorious indecency and scandal of permitting any secular benefits to be publicly transacted on that day, in a country professing Christianity, and the corruption of morals which usually follows its profanation, the keeping one day in seven holy, as a time of relaxation and refreshment as well as for public worship, is of admirable service to the state....

“It humanizes by the help of conversation and society the manners of the lower classes; which would otherwise degenerate into a sordid ferocity and savage selfishness of spirit.”

Blackstone cites three statutes which prohibit sabbath-breaking: 25 Henry VI, Chapter 5; 1 Car. I, Chapter 1; and 29 Car. II, Chapter 7 (1678).

The punishments ranged from forfeiture of any goods exposed to sale on a Sunday, to a 20 shilling fine.


  • Radin, Max, Radin Law Dictionary (New York: Oceana Publiations, 1955), page 303

Categories & Topics:

Always looking up definitions? Save time with our search provider (modern browsers only)

If you find an error or omission in Duhaime's Law Dictionary, or if you have suggestion for a legal term, we'd love to hear from you!