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

Once in custody and after a good meal and a few hours sleep, Lively felt the need to clear his conscience. Dawn Mitchell, Indianapolis Star, "True crime: The 'dresser drawer murder' at the Claypool Hotel," 13 July 2018 Winslow, 34, remained impassive during the court proceeding and has been held in custody since his recent arrest. Josh Peter, USA TODAY, "Kellen Winslow Jr. faces multiple rape, kidnapping charges, bail set at $2 million," 12 July 2018 Rojas, Ortiz, two other men and two women were sentenced in January 2016 to a year in custody. Pauline Repard,, "Robber gets 15 years for $1.5M jewel theft, assault in University Town Center," 12 July 2018 The Justice Department also fought to modify the 1997 Flores court settlement, which says migrant children can’t be kept in custody for more than 20 days. Margaret Hartmann, Daily Intelligencer, "Trump Returns to ‘Catch and Release’ for Migrant Families – But Maybe Not for Long," 11 July 2018 Grant failed to post his $50,000 bail and was in custody overnight. Christine Dempsey,, "Hartford PD: Six Days After Boy's Drowning, Man Falsely Reports Another," 10 July 2018 SUBSCRIBE TODAY Baquera said that the suspect was injured and taken to a hospital, where he was still located as of Tuesday afternoon, and is in custody. Claire Morgan, sacbee, "Man accused of robbing Roseville bank flees, causing three-car crash, police say," 10 July 2018 The Mitchells were each sentenced to almost seven years in prison, with credit for 13 months in custody while awaiting trial and credit for good behavior, according to the outlet. Alexia Fernandez,, "Faith Healer Parents Plead Guilty in the Death of Baby After They Chose Prayer Over Medical Help," 10 July 2018 More than two years after his conviction for making terror threats against governmental facilities in Lake County, a California man was sentenced to six years in prison — then released soon after due to time already spent in custody. Jim Newton, Lake County News-Sun, "Man convicted of terrorist threat against Lake County Courthouse sentenced and released," 9 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

Latin custodia, from custod-, custos guardian

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Phrases Related to custody

custody battle

joint custody

protective custody

Statistics for custody

Last Updated

30 Sep 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

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Comments on custody

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one that holds something together

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