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

Not so shipshape America and European countries condemned Venezuela, after Rafael Acosta Arévalo, a captain in the country’s navy, died in custody just days after appearing in court, having apparently been tortured. The Economist, "Politics this week," 6 July 2019 Pun accused police of mistreating him while in custody, according to the media reports. Washington Post, "Mothers rally as Hong Kong’s divide shows no sign of closing," 6 July 2019 Pun accused police of mistreating him while in custody, according to the media reports. Ken Moritsugu,, "Mothers rally as Hong Kong’s divide shows no sign of closing," 5 July 2019 One suspect is in custody after a stabbing left several people injured at a plasma center in Petersburg, Virginia, officials said. CBS News, "Suspect in custody after stabbing leaves several injured at Virginia plasma center," 4 July 2019 Police did not release suspect information or release whether or not a suspect is in custody. Sarah Brookbank,, "16-year-old shot in North College Hill," 4 July 2019 McKinney remains in custody, and her bail amounts to $137,500, police said Wednesday. Phil Helsel, NBC News, "Woman, 68, charged in Los Angeles area hit-and-run death of Holocaust survivor," 4 July 2019 One man died and another was in custody after a fatal crash in Hurst on Thursday afternoon. Tom Steele, Dallas News, "Man arrested after fatal crash into motorist who was checking on disabled pickup in Hurst," 4 July 2019 Members of the group were also trading jokes in reaction to the news of a migrant’s death while in custody, ProPublica found. Kat Borgerding, Vox, "Recode Daily: Facebook’s auditors say the platform’s white supremacy ban is too narrow," 2 July 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

8 Jul 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

What made you want to look up custody? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to complain fretfully

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