common-law marriage

noun

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

Word History

First Known Use

1842, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of common-law marriage was in 1842

Dictionary Entries Near 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 25 May. 2024.

Legal Definition

common-law marriage

noun
: 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.

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