Definition of common law in English:

common law


  • 1[mass noun] The part of English law that is derived from custom and judicial precedent rather than statutes.

    Compare with case law, statute law
    • ‘Another is the common law, derived from precedent and judges' interpretations of the law.’
    • ‘This is true whether the rule in question is statutory, common law, or contained in a contract.’
    • ‘Under the English common law, you were not even obliged to support your families.’
    • ‘Thus the Court should be slow to infer principles of common law as a gloss on the statutory framework.’
    • ‘The English common law is a system for producing bespoke legal solutions to individual problems.’
    • ‘When a person is adopted in Ireland, common law rules that they are considered to be born to their new parents.’
    • ‘They were subject to prosecution under English common law.’
    • ‘Companies are capable of committing offences across a wide spectrum both by statute and at common law.’
    • ‘Generally, the system of law in use worldwide can be classified into common law and statute law.’
    • ‘At common law parents may consent on behalf of their children until they reach the age of 18.’
    • ‘It is also irrelevant, at common law, that the defendant did not intend to refer to the claimant.’
    • ‘There is no right at common law for him to recover the cost against the grantor.’
    • ‘Equity awarded simple interest at a time when courts of law had no right under common law or statute to award any interest.’
    • ‘They would still be liable at common law for negligent installation or maintenance.’
    • ‘This rule has always been statutory and does not arise from either common law or equity.’
    • ‘Hence the dominant influence on the Australian common law was the English common law.’
    • ‘The procedure on stopping the driver was neither prescribed by statute nor in common law.’
    • ‘However the issue is decided by construction of the section of the statute not the common law.’
    • ‘On the other hand, they cannot prosecute unless the offence charged is actually laid down by statute or at common law.’
    • ‘The duty of good faith can arise under common law or commercial statute.’
    1. 1.1The body of English law as adopted and adapted by the different States of the US.
      Compare with civil law
      • ‘The ruling is based on the federal Lanham Act, which prohibits false and deceptive advertising, and Missouri common law dealing with unfair competition.’
      • ‘Under the U.S. system, the judiciary is charged with ensuring that the principles embedded in the Constitution, statutes, and common law are honored regardless of what the majority thinks.’
      • ‘Prior to 1970, many states, by statute or common law, dictated that fathers had a right to have their children bear their surnames.’
  • 2[as modifier] Denoting a partner in a marriage recognized in some jurisdictions (excluding the UK) as valid by common law, though not brought about by a civil or ecclesiastical ceremony.

    ‘a common-law husband’
    • ‘Pension providers were recently asked if they make a point of never providing pensions for common-law partners under any circumstances.’
    • ‘Ingram's common-law husband knew and so did students.’
    • ‘Her common-law husband is Lawrence Dublay, who is 65 years old.’
    • ‘She'll remember her common-law husband of nine years for his extensive pin collection and for serving her breakfast in bed.’
    • ‘Her common-law husband, Manuel Ortega, had decided to pay her a visit at the family home in Guatemala.’
    • ‘An Idutywa businesswoman and her common-law husband were found guilty of fraud involving theft of pension cheques amounting to more than R700 000.’
    • ‘Within the hour, a man officers have described as her common-law husband went to police.’
    • ‘Two individuals are affiliated only if they are spouses or common-law partners.’
    • ‘Her mother stood next to an open doorway and sobbed yesterday as the undertakers brought down her common-law husband's body.’
    • ‘At home, her common-law husband did an extra one to two hours of housework that she could no longer do after the accident.’
    • ‘Over the years the whole issue of marriage has changed and many couples would rather live together as common-law husband and wife, many feel that if they got married then their whole relationship would change, for us this was never the case.’
    • ‘The policy permits Iowa State to offer the same insurance credits for domestic partners enrolled in an Iowa State benefits plan as it does for married or common-law partners.’
    • ‘In fact, you can use the money to help out your spouse or common-law partner - but not your kids.’
    • ‘Having risen from a difficult childhood, difficulties with alcohol, loss of employment, his home and a failed marriage, he now has stable employment and enjoys a loving relationship with his common-law wife.’
    • ‘Her common-law husband is a prison guard in Napanee, and was also on strike with OPSEU.’
    • ‘Like married spouses, common-law partners can opt out of the property sharing regime by entering into a written agreement dealing with their property.’
    1. 2.1Denoting a partner in a relationship in which a man and woman cohabit for a period long enough to suggest stability.
      • ‘There is always a feeling of insecurity by the female partner in any common-law relationship.’
      • ‘During their 20-year common-law relationship, they lived in Calgary, Portage La Prairie and Ottawa.’
      • ‘When a woman in a common-law relationship has a child, her male partner is automatically considered the father, unless she enters another name on the birth certificate.’
      • ‘Within a year the relationship changed from landlord-tenant to one of common-law partners.’
      • ‘In June 2001 he moved in with a new common-law partner.’


common law