cus·​to·​dy | \ˈkə-stə-dē \
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

Edward Wagner was the long-time former boyfriend of 19-year-old Hanna Rhoden, one of the eight victims, and shared custody of their daughter at the time of the massacre. Angie Wang, The Seattle Times, "Authorities: Prosecuting Ohio massacre case could last years," 14 Nov. 2018 Court documents, according to TMZ, show that Dewan an Tatum are both asking for joint custody of their five-year-old daughter, Everly. Kayleigh Roberts, Marie Claire, "Jenna Dewan Officially Files for Divorce from Channing Tatum," 27 Oct. 2018 Fitbit Director of Brand Protection Jeff Bonham took custody of Navarra’s device and worked on retrieving data on her heart rate and movements from her final days. Beth Mole, Ars Technica, "Fitbit data used to charge 90-year-old man in gruesome hacking murder case," 5 Oct. 2018 Michael Hunn, 50, shared custody of the two children with his ex-wife Stephanie Reece, according to the station. Robert Gearty, Fox News, "Two sleeping Indiana teens shot dead by father who kills himself," 22 Sep. 2018 Prior to Young’s statement, Assistant District Attorney Craig Iannini addressed the court and said Young had split custody of Kenai with the boy’s father, who was married to Buie at the time of the child’s death. Travis Andersen,, "Woman pleads guilty in beating death of 3-year-old stepson in Roxbury," 13 July 2018 Child Protective Services took custody of her daughter. Matthew Martinez, star-telegram, "Mom offered sex with 2-year-old daughter for $1,200. She was talking to a Texas cop," 12 July 2018 Dean Reynolds is 51 years of age, maintains custody of his 15-year-old son and has no previous criminal history. Tresa Baldas, Detroit Free Press, "Feds: No proof behind Macomb official's cancer story; keep him jailed," 12 July 2018 As part of the request, Shane's asking for sole custody of their son. Taylor Mead, House Beautiful, "Nicole Curtis Is Fighting For Custody Of Her 3-Year-Old Son," 11 July 2018

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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Statistics for custody

Last Updated

9 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for custody

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

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More Definitions for custody



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

: the act of protecting or taking care of something


cus·​to·​dy | \ˈkə-stə-dē \

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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Comments on custody

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a nest or breeding place

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