Etymology
Advertisement
in-law (n.)

1894, "anyone of a relationship not natural," abstracted from father-in-law, etc.

The position of the 'in-laws' (a happy phrase which is attributed ... to her Majesty, than whom no one can be better acquainted with the article) is often not very apt to promote happiness. [Blackwood's Magazine, 1894]

The earliest recorded use of the formation is in brother-in-law (13c.); the law is Canon Law, which defines degrees of relationship within which marriage is prohibited. Thus the word originally had a more narrow application; its general extension to more distant relatives of one's spouse is, according to OED "recent colloquial or journalistic phraseology." Middle English inlaue (13c.) meant "one within or restored to the protection and benefit of the law" (opposite of an outlaw), from a verb inlauen, from Old English inlagian "reverse sentence of outlawry."

Related entries & more 
Advertisement
mother-in-law (n.)

late 14c., moder-in-laue, "mother of one's spouse," from mother (n.1) + in-law. Also in early use, "stepmother." In British slang c. 1884, mother-in-law was said to mean "a mixture of ales old and bitter."

Related entries & more 
Advertisement
brother-in-law (n.)
"brother of one's husband or wife," also "brother of one's sister's husband," c. 1300; also brother in law; see brother + in-law. In Arabic, Urdu, Swahili, etc., brother-in-law, when addressed to a male who is not a brother-in-law, is an extreme insult, with implications of "I slept with your sister."
Related entries & more 
law (v.)
1640s, "to litigate," from law (n.). Old English had lagian "make a law, ordain." Related: Lawed; lawing.
Related entries & more 
law (n.)
Origin and meaning of law

Old English lagu (plural laga, combining form lah-) "ordinance, rule prescribed by authority, regulation; district governed by the same laws;" also sometimes "right, legal privilege," from Old Norse *lagu "law," collective plural of lag "layer, measure, stroke," literally "something laid down, that which is fixed or set."

This is reconstructed to be from Proto-Germanic *lagam "put, lay" (from PIE root *legh- "to lie down, lay"). The modern word is thus a twin of lay (n.2) as "that which is set or established."

Rare in Old English, it ousted the more usual ae and also gesetnes, which also were etymologically "something placed or set." 

In physics, "a proposition which expresses the regular order of things," from 1660s. Law and order have been coupled since 1796. To lay down the law (1752) is pleonastic (the "law" in the figure is biblical law, laid down from the pulpit). Poor laws provided for the support of paupers at public expense; sumptuary laws restrained excesses in apparel, food, or luxuries.

It is more common for Indo-European languages to use different words for "a specific law" and for "law" in the general sense of "institution or body of laws," for example Latin lex "a law," ius "a right," especially "legal right, law."

Indo-European words for "a law" are most commonly from verbs for "to put, place, set, lay," such as Greek thesmos (from tithemi "to put, place"), Old English dom (from PIE *dhe- "to put, place, set"), Lithuanian įstatymas (from statyti "cause to stand, set up, establish"), Polish ustawa (from stać "stand"). Also compare Old English gesetnes (above), statute, from Latin statuere; German Gesetz "law," from Old High German gisatzida "a fixing, determination, assessment," with sezzen (modern German setzen) "to make sit, set, put."

Words for "law" in the general sense mostly mean etymologically "what is right" and often are connected with adjectives for "right" (themselves often figurative uses of words for "straight," "upright," "true," "fitting," or "usage, custom." Such are Greek nomos (as in numismatic); French droit, Spanish derecho, from Latin directus; Polish prawo, Russian pravo (from Old Church Slavonic pravŭ "straight," in the daughter languages "right"); also Old Norse rettr, Old English riht, Dutch recht, German Recht (see right (adj.1)).

[L]earn to obey good laws before you seek to alter bad ones [Ruskin, "Fors Clavigera"]
Related entries & more 
in (adj.)
"that is within, internal," 1590s, from in (adv.). Sense of "holding power" (the in party) first recorded c. 1600; that of "exclusive" (the in-crowd, an in-joke) is from 1907 (in-group); that of "stylish, fashionable" (the in thing) is from 1960.
Related entries & more 
-in (1)
the adverb in attached to a verb as a word-forming element, by 1960, abstracted from sit-in, which is attested from 1941 in reference to protests and 1937 in reference to labor union actions (which probably was influenced by sit-down strike) but was popularized in reference to civil disobedience protests aimed at segregated lunch counters. As a word-forming element at first of other types of protests, extended by 1965 to any sort of communal gathering (such as love-in, 1967).
Related entries & more