common law

Save This Word!


the system of law originating in England, as distinct from the civil or Roman law and the canon or ecclesiastical law.
the unwritten law, especially of England, based on custom or court decision, as distinct from statute law.
the law administered through the system of courts established for the purpose, as distinct from equity or admiralty.



Were you ready for a quiz on this topic? Well, here it is! See how well you can differentiate between the uses of "was" vs. "were" in this quiz.
Question 1 of 7
“Was” is used for the indicative past tense of “to be,” and “were” is only used for the subjunctive past tense.

Meet Grammar Coach

Write or paste your essay, email, or story into Grammar Coach and get grammar helpImprove Your Writing

Meet Grammar Coach

Improve Your Writing
Write or paste your essay, email, or story into Grammar Coach and get grammar help

Origin of common law

Middle English word dating back to 1300–50

Definition for common law (2 of 2)

[ kom-uhn-law ]
/ ˈkɒm ənˈlɔ /


of, relating to, or established by common law: a common-law spouse.

Origin of common-law

First recorded in 1905–10
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021

Example sentences from the Web for common law

British Dictionary definitions for common law

common law


the body of law based on judicial decisions and custom, as distinct from statute law
the law of a state that is of general application, as distinct from regional customs
common-law (modifier) denoting a marriage deemed to exist after a couple have cohabited for several yearscommon-law marriage; common-law wife
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Cultural definitions for common law

common law

Law developed in the course of time from the rulings of judges, as opposed to law embodied in statutes passed by legislatures (statutory law) or law embodied in a written constitution (constitutional law). (See stare decisis.)

notes for common law

The importance of common law is particularly stressed in the legal system of Britain, on which the legal system of the United States is based.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.