noun cus·to·dy \ ˈkə-stə-dē \
Updated on: 19 Feb 2018

Definition of custody

plural custodies
: immediate charge and control (as over a ward or a suspect) exercised by a person or an authority; also : safekeeping

Examples of custody in a Sentence

  1. She has sole custody of her daughter.

  2. The judge granted custody to the grandparents.

  3. The bank provides safe custody for valuables.

Recent Examples of custody from the Web

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.

Origin and Etymology of custody

Middle English custodie, from Latin custodia guarding, from custod-, custos guardian

CUSTODY Defined for English Language Learners



Definition of custody for English Language Learners

  • 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

CUSTODY Defined for Kids


noun cus·to·dy \ ˈkə-stə-dē \

Definition of custody for Students

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.

Law Dictionary


noun cus·to·dy

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

Origin and Etymology of custody

Latin custodia, from custod-, custos guardian

Seen and Heard

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