com·​mon-law | \ ˈkä-mən-ˌlȯ How to pronounce common-law (audio) \

Definition of common-law

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : of, relating to, or based on the common law
2 : relating to or based on a common-law marriage

common law


Definition of common law (Entry 2 of 2)

: the body of law developed in England primarily from judicial decisions based on custom and precedent, unwritten in statute or code, and constituting the basis of the English legal system and of the system in all of the U.S. except Louisiana

Examples of common-law in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The United States inherited its legal tradition from English common law after independence. Matt Ford, The New Republic, 11 May 2022 Also under Macron's watch, France passed a law against terrorism enshrining the state of emergency started after the 2015 attacks on the Bataclan theater, Paris cafes and Charlie Hebdo newspaper into common law. Arno Pedram, ajc, 21 Apr. 2022 Private criminal prosecutions are infrequent in Australia, but are permitted in many jurisdictions under common law if the circumstances allow. Hannah Ritchie And Jill Disis, CNN, 3 Feb. 2022 The sometimes violent pro-democracy protests were sparked by the proposal of law to allow suspects to stand trial in mainland China, which operates a legal system different from Hong Kong’s common law system. Vivienne Chow, Variety, 6 Apr. 2022 Swalwell and the other lawsuits also cite some D.C. laws and common law on assault, and the judge allowed arguments based on a few of those to proceed, as well. Tal Kopan, San Francisco Chronicle, 18 Feb. 2022 After the deadly traffic stop early Monday, Rosales’ common law wife and brother were arrested in Houston and charged with tampering with evidence. Danielle Wallace, Fox News, 28 Jan. 2022 Authorities said Rosales’ common law wife, Reina Marquez, 40, and her brother, Henri Marquez, 42, have each been charged with tampering with evidence in connection with the case. Juan A. Lozano, Chron, 27 Jan. 2022 The complaint, which names executives at EthereumMax, alleges violations of state consumer protection laws, common law over aiding and abetting and unjust enrichment. Winston Cho, The Hollywood Reporter, 11 Jan. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'common-law.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of common-law


1619, in the meaning defined at sense 1


14th century, in the meaning defined above

Learn More About common-law

Time Traveler for common-law

Time Traveler

The first known use of common-law was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near common-law

common land


common law

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for common-law

Cite this Entry

“Common-law.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 May. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for common-law

common law


Legal Definition of common law

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a body of law that is based on custom and general principles and embodied in case law and that serves as precedent or is applied to situations not covered by statute the common law of torts : as
a : the body of law that was first developed in the English courts of law as distinguished from equity and that allows for particular remedies (as damages or replevin) in suits at common law…the right of trial by jury shall be preservedU.S. Constitution amend. VII — compare equity sense 2
b : the body of law developed in England that is the basis of U.S. federal law and of state law in all states except Louisiana — compare civil law sense 2, statutory law



Legal Definition of common-law (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : of, relating to, or based on the common law common-law immunity
2 : relating to or based on a common-law marriage her common-law husband


Test Your Vocabulary

Name That Food

  • a-light
  • Name these cookies!
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!