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

But the state governor has acknowledged that authorities had several of the suspects in custody earlier on other crimes - but allowed them to be released. Washington Post, "Families begin burying the 28 victims of Mexico bar fire," 31 Aug. 2019 The Waukesha County Sheriff's Department issued a tweet late Thursday night saying Kalin Sunde was back in custody. Christopher Kuhagen, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "The woman involved in the I-94 standoff with police has been caught, authorities say," 29 Aug. 2019 The district attorney’s office is treating the matter as a homicide and a suspect, a 19-year-old man, was in custody Thursday night. Danny Mcdonald,, "At least three men stabbed, one fatally, in North Attleborough," 29 Aug. 2019 The woman who was driving the 1999 Pontiac Montana minivan that the man and three other women were in when they were injured was not in custody after running from the scene, police said. Liam Ford,, "1 dead after Near West Side hit-and-run that injured 5 others; driver of minivan sought by cops," 29 Aug. 2019 Five people are in custody Thursday in Philadelphia after a pair of undercover officers were fired at while canvassing a neighborhood for drugs. Greg Norman | Fox News, Fox News, "Five arrested in Philadelphia after reportedly firing at pair of undercover officers," 29 Aug. 2019 Story, in custody since last week on multiple unrelated charges, was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of murder. Teri Figueroa, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Two years after teen dies in botched burglary, alleged accomplice arrested on suspicion of murder," 29 Aug. 2019 He was being held in custody late Wednesday, a jail official said. Phil Helsel, NBC News, "Man arrested in fatal stabbing of dog walker in Washington, D.C.," 29 Aug. 2019 Those include offenders sentenced to a year or less in custody., "Multnomah County officials sound alarm on inadequate state funding for jail deputies, probation officers," 27 Aug. 2019

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

2 Sep 2019

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
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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Comments on custody

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formidable, illustrious, or eminent

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