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

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

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Cite this Entry

“Common-law marriage.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/common-law%20marriage. Accessed 23 Jun. 2021.

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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

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