common-law marriage

noun

Definition of common-law marriage

1 : a marriage recognized in some jurisdictions and based on the parties' agreement to consider themselves married and sometimes also on their cohabitation
2 : the cohabitation of a couple even when it does not constitute a legal marriage

First Known Use of common-law marriage

1888, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about common-law marriage

Time Traveler for common-law marriage

Time Traveler

The first known use of common-law marriage was in 1888

See more words from the same year

Statistics for common-law marriage

Cite this Entry

“Common-law marriage.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/common-law%20marriage. Accessed 8 Jul. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for common-law marriage

common-law marriage

noun

Legal Definition of common-law marriage

: a marriage that is without a ceremony and is based on the parties' agreement to consider themselves married and usually also on their cohabitation for a period and their public recognition of the marriage — compare concubinage

Note: Most jurisdictions no longer allow this type of marriage to be formed, although they may recognize such marriages formed prior to a certain date or formed in a jurisdiction that does permit common-law marriages.

More from Merriam-Webster on common-law marriage

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for common-law marriage

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about common-law marriage

Comments on common-law marriage

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

WORD OF THE DAY

See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

A More Exception(al) Quiz

  • hot dog  hot dog  hot dog  hot dog cat
  • Which of the following words is not a synonym for ‘a young person’?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Citation

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

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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