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 In its simplest form, this argument can be refuted by observing that in the English tradition there were impeachments for acts that were not forbidden by statutory or common law, and that the framers certainly did not recognize any such limitation. Noah Feldman, The New York Review of Books, "Is Trump Above the Law?," 19 Dec. 2019 Allen’s claims in the lawsuit are for common law trademark infringement and unfair competition. Patrick Danner,, "Who’s going to fix this? San Antonio handyman battles Ace Hardware over new venture’s name.," 28 Feb. 2020 The term’s slippery definition, which was historically written to exclude workers of color in sectors like farm work and domestic work, varies between statutes and in common law. Andrew Schwartz, The New Republic, "Gig-Working Through the Apocalypse," 8 Apr. 2020 Australia’s legal system is built on British common law. New York Times, "Cardinal Pell’s Acquittal Was as Opaque as His Sexual Abuse Trial," 7 Apr. 2020 The boy’s body was found about six hours after Tamara Jernel Brown, 30, was arrested by Charlotte police for common law robbery and two counts of assault on a government official. USA TODAY, "Fallen hero honored, manatees rescued, rabid bats on campus, hungry bears not hibernating: News from around our 50 states," 24 Feb. 2020 Some radical forces want to establish Sharia law in the South Asian country, which is largely governed by a legal system based on British common law. Washington Post, "Bangladesh sentences 10 to death for 2001 political bombings," 20 Jan. 2020 But in common law nations such as Britain, the U.S. and Australia, a Red Notice does not trigger an arrest. Fortune, "Carlos Ghosn Is Now a Fugitive In Exile. Here Are His Legal Options, According to Experts," 10 Jan. 2020 The suit alleges copyright infringement, infringement of registered mark, false association, violation of the right of publicity and California common law trademark infringement. Leada Gore |, al, "Kim Kardashian West suing Alabama doctor over ‘vampire facial’ advertising," 11 Dec. 2019

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.

See More

First Known Use of common-law


1619, in the meaning defined at sense 1


14th century, in the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

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

Statistics for common-law

Cite this Entry

“Common-law.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Jun. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for common-law


How to pronounce common law (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of common-law

 (Entry 1 of 2)

used to describe a relationship between a man and a woman that is considered to be a marriage because the man and woman have lived together for a long period of time

common law


English Language Learners Definition of common law (Entry 2 of 2)

: the laws that developed from English court decisions and customs and that form the basis of laws in the U.S.

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

More from Merriam-Webster on common-law

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with common-law

Comments on common-law

What made you want to look up common-law? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

May 2020 Words of the Day Quiz

  • a blooming wisteria tree
  • Which is a synonym of exiguous?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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