common

1 of 2

adjective

com·​mon ˈkä-mən How to pronounce common (audio)
1
a
: of or relating to a community at large : public
work for the common good
b
: known to the community
common nuisances
2
a
: belonging to or shared by two or more individuals or things or by all members of a group
a common friend
buried in a common grave
common interests
b
: belonging equally to two or more mathematical entities
triangles with a common base
c
: having two or more branches
common carotid artery
3
a
: occurring or appearing frequently : familiar
a common sight
b
: of the best known or most frequently seen kind
used especially of plants and animals
the common housefly
c
: vernacular sense 2
common names
4
a
: widespread, general
common knowledge
b
: characterized by a lack of privilege or special status
common people
a common laborer
c
: just satisfying accustomed criteria : elementary
common decency
5
a
: falling below ordinary standards : second-rate
Oh hard is the bed they have made him, / And common the blanket and cheap … A. E. Housman
b
: lacking refinement : coarse
said, in his common vulgar way, the city would have to lump it J. K. Jerome
6
: denoting nominal relations by a single linguistic form that in a more highly inflected language might be denoted by two or more different forms
common gender
common case
7
: of, relating to, or being common stock
commonly adverb
commonness noun

common

2 of 2

noun

1
commons plural : the common people
2
commons plural in form but singular in construction : a dining hall
Students usually have their meals at the commons.
3
commons or Commons plural in form but singular or plural in construction
a
: the political group or estate comprising the commoners
b
: the parliamentary representatives of the commoners
4
: the legal right of taking a profit in another's land in common with the owner or others
5
: a piece of land subject to common use: such as
a
: undivided land used especially for pasture
b
: a public open area in a municipality
A food and jazz festival will be held at the town common.
6
a
: a religious service suitable for any of various festivals
7
Phrases
in common
: shared together
has a lot in common with his neighbors
Choose the Right Synonym for common

common, ordinary, plain, familiar, popular, vulgar mean generally met with and not in any way special, strange, or unusual.

common implies usual everyday quality or frequency of occurrence

a common error
lacked common honesty

and may additionally suggest inferiority or coarseness.

common manners

ordinary stresses conformance in quality or kind with the regular order of things.

an ordinary pleasant summer day
a very ordinary sort of man

plain is likely to suggest homely simplicity.

plain hard-working people

familiar stresses the fact of being generally known and easily recognized.

a familiar melody

popular applies to what is accepted by or prevalent among people in general sometimes in contrast to upper classes or special groups.

a writer of popular romances

vulgar, otherwise similar to popular, is likely to carry derogatory connotations (as of inferiority or coarseness).

souvenirs designed to appeal to the vulgar taste

Example Sentences

Adjective They have a common ancestor. The people on the island have a sense of common identity. It is common practice for one town's fire department to help another town when there is a big fire. Electric windows are a common feature in new cars. “Smith” is a common name. I think some of the most common flowers are also some of the prettiest. cures for the common cold Noun The campus has several dining commons. See More
Recent Examples on the Web
Adjective
In the United States, hearing loss is the third most common chronic physical condition after high blood pressure and arthritis, according to the CDC. Natalie Neysa Alund, USA TODAY, 17 Nov. 2022 What do hybrid workers and Twitch streamers have in common? Nicole Nguyen, WSJ, 17 Nov. 2022 Elegance, precision and longevity: These are just some of the qualities Lecia’s new camera has in common with a classic dive watch. Rachel Cormack, Robb Report, 16 Nov. 2022 Coulter noted that Sweden and Michigan also have a lot in common, from a similar population size of more than 10 million each, to a location with coastlines and natural beauty. Eric D. Lawrence, Detroit Free Press, 16 Nov. 2022 While these picks are all different in appearance, the one thing these aprons all have in common is they're made of some dang good materials. John Thompson, Men's Health, 16 Nov. 2022 Sara Napoli’s professional wardrobe as CEO of the crime-fighting San Diego Police Foundation surely has little in common with that of her past life as a teenage ballerina. Diane Bellcolumnist, San Diego Union-Tribune, 15 Nov. 2022 What do President Biden, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Rochelle Walensky and Stephen Colbert have in common? Karen Kaplan, Los Angeles Times, 15 Nov. 2022 It was widely understood that Pence, a scripture-annotating family man from southern Indiana, has little in common with the Manhattan playboy turned president. Tim Alberta, The Atlantic, 15 Nov. 2022
Noun
The smell of fried food hovered across the common from the food truck area, and artisans sold their products from tents in the Halloween Marketplace. Nick Stoico, BostonGlobe.com, 30 Oct. 2022 The group had got approval to camp on the Friday night near the bridge in the neighboring town of Concord, and had asked Lexington’s selectmen for permission to bivouac on the town’s historic common, also known as the Battle Green, the next night. Bill Mckibben, The New Yorker, 1 May 2022 Tennessee Williams’s Memoirs is next to a biography of Patrick Dennis called Uncle Mame, because Williams and Dennis had many things in common: Pathos. Leslie Kendall Dye, The Atlantic, 19 June 2022 My friend and his wife live on the edge of a park, not a former common but land that was levelled by German bombing. Eula Biss, The New Yorker, 8 June 2022 The war in Vietnam had increasingly divided Lexington—thousands of residents had turned out in 1969 to rally on the common for a moratorium in the fighting. Bill Mckibben, The New Yorker, 1 May 2022 In 2020, the display was scaled down significantly — with just 1,000 flags lining the common. BostonGlobe.com, 24 May 2021 For all their differences, every ACAAN has one feature in common: At some point, the magician touches the cards. New York Times, 23 May 2021 Even politicians who have little in common seemed to unite in their misgivings about the league. Washington Post, 19 Apr. 2021 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'common.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History

Etymology

Adjective and Noun

Middle English commun, from Anglo-French, from Latin communis — more at mean

First Known Use

Adjective

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Noun

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 5

Time Traveler
The first known use of common was in the 13th century

Dictionary Entries Near common

Cite this Entry

“Common.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/common. Accessed 30 Nov. 2022.

Kids Definition

common 1 of 2

adjective

com·​mon ˈkäm-ən How to pronounce common (audio)
1
: relating or belonging to or used by everyone : public
work for the common good
2
: belonging to or shared by two or more individuals or by the members of a group or set
a common ancestor
3
a
: widespread sense 1, general
facts of common knowledge
b
: adequate
common decency
4
: occurring or appearing frequently : familiar
a common sight
5
: not above the average in rank, merit, or social position
a common soldier
the common people
6
a
: falling below ordinary standards : second-rate
commonly adverb
commonness noun

common

2 of 2

noun

1
plural : the common people
2
: a piece of land that is open to common use especially for pasture
often used in plural
in common
: shared together
intersecting lines have one point in common

Medical Definition

common

adjective

com·​mon ˈkäm-ən How to pronounce common (audio)
: formed of or dividing into two or more branches
the common facial vein
common iliac vessels

Legal Definition

common 1 of 2

adjective

com·​mon
1
a
: of or relating to a community at large : public
common defense
b
: known to the community
a common thief
2
: belonging to or shared by two or more persons or things or by all members of a group
when the insured and the beneficiary perish in a common disaster
common areas of the building
3
: of or relating to common stock
common shares

common

2 of 2

noun

1
plural capitalized : house of commons
2
: the legal right of taking a profit in another's land in common with the owner or others
the common of estovers
the common of pasture
3
: a piece of land subject to common use: as
a
: land jointly owned and used especially for pasture
b
: a public open area in a municipality
4
: a condition of shared ownership : a condition in which a right is shared with an interest held by another person
held the estate in common
see also tenancy in common at tenancy compare severalty sense 1
5
: common stock at stock

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