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

All told, about five people had joined in the attack, and one suspect was in custody Thursday afternoon, Boyle said. Travis Andersen,, "Suffolk jail officer attacked in attempted robbery on way to work," 1 Aug. 2019 The 30-year-old rapper, né Rakim Mayers, has been in custody since July 2, after he was arrested in Stockholm following a street altercation involving a 19-year-old man named Mustafa Jafari. Maria Pasquini,, "A$AP Rocky 'Scared' During Street Brawl and Tried to Walk Away: 'I Didn't Want This to Happen'," 1 Aug. 2019 Elder and Natale-Hjorth will remain in custody because of the severity of the allegations of both homicide and attempted extortion, a judge ruled earlier this week. NBC News, "Italian says he was threatened by Americans accused of policeman's murder," 1 Aug. 2019 The department does not have any suspects in custody. Carina Julig, The Denver Post, "Denver driver fled after skateboarder collided with vehicle at Lincoln and Colfax, police say," 31 July 2019 The child was handed over to her mother after nearly four months in custody. Miriam Jordan, New York Times, "More Than 900 Migrant Children Have Been Separated From Their Families Over Past Year," 30 July 2019 The hacker is already in custody, according to the US Justice Department: 33-year-old Paige Thompson, aka Erratic, who The Wall Street Journal reports is a former Amazon Web Services engineer. Sean Hollister, The Verge, "Massive Capital One breach exposes personal info of 100 million Americans," 30 July 2019 Both remained in custody Monday night in lieu of more than $125,000 bail each. Alex Riggins, San Diego Union-Tribune, "SDPD arrests 2 in Clairemont home-invasion attack of 87-year-old man," 29 July 2019 Three men were in custody Monday morning after holding a hostage at gunpoint at a Fort Worth home, police said. Sara Coello, Dallas News, "3 men in custody after taking hostage at gunpoint at Fort Worth home, police say," 29 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

5 Aug 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).


a period when something is suspended

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