cus·​to·​dy | \ ˈkə-stə-dē How to pronounce custody (audio) \
plural custodies

Definition of custody

: immediate charge and control (as over a ward or a suspect) exercised by a person or an authority also : safekeeping

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Examples of custody in a Sentence

She has sole custody of her daughter. The judge granted custody to the grandparents. The bank provides safe custody for valuables.
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Recent Examples on the Web Detectives discovered Eric Otto White, 57, was in Las Vegas, and he was taken into custody without incident on Sunday. Mike Cruz, The Arizona Republic, "Phoenix man arrested in connection with California shooting that killed 2, wounded 1," 10 Sep. 2020 Officers called the man out of the home and took him into custody without incident, police said. Anchorage Daily News, "Anchorage man accused of assaulting woman and starting fire in home after argument, police say," 10 Sep. 2020 Authorities used a Taser on Brixey, according to the release, and he was taken into custody on one count of battery, two counts of aggravated assault on an officer and one count of resisting arrest. Nyssa Kruse, Arkansas Online, "Sheriff's office: Man in custody after swinging machete at deputies in Jefferson County," 10 Sep. 2020 Bellamy was taken into custody on Thursday morning. Megan Cerullo, CBS News, "DOJ busts NFL player and dozens of others accused of trying to steal $175 million in PPP loans," 10 Sep. 2020 Heavily armed men in camouflage tactical gear surrounded Hacker and took him into custody. Washington Post, "Swept up in the federal response to Portland protests: ‘I didn’t know if I was going to be seen again’," 10 Sep. 2020 Sanchez said a witness led local authorities to the well and the suspect, who was not identified, was taken into custody. Gabrielle Chung,, "Missing Elderly California Couple Found Dead at Bottom of Well in Mexico," 9 Sep. 2020 Hundreds of inmates, many ISKP and Taliban fighters, managed to escape, although many were captured and brought back into custody. Zachary Halaschak, Washington Examiner, "Afghan vice president survives after convoy targeted by bomb, at least 10 others dead," 9 Sep. 2020 Wednesday, 21-year-old Green and 24-year-old Cameron Bowen were taken into custody, according to Columbus police. Laura Hancock, cleveland, "Columbus Police arrest couple at state lawmaker’s house in connection to May slaying," 9 Sep. 2020

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

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First Known Use of custody

15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for custody

Middle English custodie, from Latin custodia guarding, from custod-, custos guardian

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Time Traveler for custody

Time Traveler

The first known use of custody was in the 15th century

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Statistics for custody

Last Updated

13 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Custody.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Sep. 2020.

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More Definitions for custody


How to pronounce custody (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of custody

law : the legal right to take care of a child (such as a child whose parents are divorced)
: the state of being kept in a prison or jail
formal : the act of protecting or taking care of something


cus·​to·​dy | \ ˈkə-stə-dē How to pronounce custody (audio) \

Kids Definition of custody

1 : direct responsibility for care and control The boy is in the custody of his parents.
2 : the state of being arrested or held by police The suspect has been taken into custody.



Legal Definition of custody

: care or control exercised by a person or authority over something or someone: as
a : supervision and control over property that usually includes liability for damage that may occur
b : care and maintenance of a child that includes the right to direct the child's activities and make decisions regarding the child's upbringing — compare visitation
joint custody
: custody of a child shared by divorced or separated parents who alternate physical custody of and share in decisions regarding the child

called also shared custody

physical custody
: custody that includes sharing a residence with a child
shared custody
: joint custody in this entry
sole custody
: custody of a child awarded to only one person and usually to a parent
temporary custody
: custody awarded until a final judgment in a matter (as a divorce) is made
c : official restraint on freedom (as by arrest or imprisonment or by release on bail, personal recognizance, probation, or parole) — compare arrest
constructive custody
: custody of a person (as a parolee) who is not under immediate physical control but whose freedom is controlled or restrained by legal authority
penal custody
: custody of a person (as in a correctional institution) as a form of punishment
physical custody
: custody of a person (as an arrestee) whose freedom is under the actual and immediate control of an official
preventive custody
: custody of a person (as a criminal defendant awaiting trial) for the purpose of preventing further possible dangerous or criminal behavior
protective custody
: physical custody of a person for his or her own safety

History and Etymology for custody

Latin custodia, from custod-, custos guardian

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