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 Ashley was taken into custody by federal officials last week on related wire fraud charges. Alison Medley, Chron, "Texas financial advisor charged with murder after allegedly staging client's suicide," 20 Nov. 2020 The man who was shot, identified by police as being 26 years old, was taken into custody and taken to a local hospital with a gunshot wound, Rueca said. Lauren Hernández,, "Witness video captures shooting by S.F. police of man on Market Street," 19 Nov. 2020 Baroz was taken into custody without incident, according to the release, and was being taken to a detention center in Gallup. Raja Razek, CNN, "Colorado man arrested after human remains found," 19 Nov. 2020 The unidentified driver, a 26-year-old man from Georgia, was taken to the hospital with unknown injuries before he was taken into custody. Taylor Pettaway,, "Undocumented immigrants found after high-speed chase in San Antonio," 19 Nov. 2020 Per state reform measures, he was not taken into custody because his crimes did not qualify under bail. Bradford Betz, Fox News, "Buffalo man accused of vandalizing his own vehicle with pro-Trump graffiti, faces insurance fraud charges," 19 Nov. 2020 He was taken into custody shortly after in the 2900 block of 29th Street North. William Thornton |, al, "Birmingham police arrest man after chase, find 3 juveniles inside car," 19 Nov. 2020 The suspect, a 78-year-old Greendale man, was taken into custody about seven hours later in the city of Beloit. Evan Casey, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "A man was shot in the head during an attempted carjacking in Brookfield," 18 Nov. 2020 Woodruff noted police conferred with the Marion County Prosecutor's Office and decided not to take the man into custody, pending further investigation. Vic Ryckaert, The Indianapolis Star, "Disturbance in Lawrence between neighbors erupts in gunfire, killing 1 man," 18 Nov. 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

24 Nov 2020

Cite this Entry

“Custody.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Nov. 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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