Definition of commons in English:


plural noun

  • 1

    1. 1.1historical The common people regarded as a part of a political system, especially in Britain.
      ‘the state was divided into clergy, nobility, and commons’
      ‘both lords and commons won some important concessions’
      • ‘Early modern scholars often go too far in ignoring the existence of divergent interests between commons and elites, focusing only on vertical rather than horizontal linkages.’
      • ‘First he takes a common for a wife then tries to convince the council of elders to adopt the concept of allowing the commons responsibilities in the government.’
      • ‘He disbelieves the commons who testified that the gentry willingly took command, shared their grievances, and led them on.’
  • 2[treated as singular] Land or resources belonging to or affecting the whole of a community.

    ‘the mismanagement of a commons’
    ‘the global commons of Antarctica’
    • ‘Competitive nation-states are abandoning natural resources protection and privatizing their ecological commons.’
    • ‘In a later passage Menger seems to recognize problems that might be associated with air and water pollution or the tragedy of the commons where the resource in question is generally viewed as a noneconomic or free good.’
    • ‘One issue, the division of community commons, led to some disputes, and the outbreak of localized rebellions.’
    • ‘Further, many believe that patenting genes is more about discovery than invention, and is therefore privatising what should remain in the public commons.’
    • ‘The tricky bit is dividing the commons up into the proper chunks of property to insure that the greatest number of people can still use it at a fair price.’
    • ‘By its very nature, every bit of a language belongs to the commons, and it is perfectly clear that Kasner intended googol to become part of the English language.’
    • ‘We will work to define and achieve a wireless commons built using open spectrum, and able to connect people everywhere.’
    • ‘The political battle over WiFi shapes up as a classic match between private interests and the commons.’
    • ‘A commons in medieval Britain consisted of pastureland that was shared in common by a number of the herdsmen of a village.’
    • ‘Traditionally, most of the native communities regarded their territories as commons and had never seen a need for documents such as deeds and plats (a type of land, or lot map).’
    • ‘The loss of a public commons in broadcasting must be counted as one of the twentieth century's great civic and cultural losses.’
    • ‘Some commons are public institutions such as libraries, museums, schools and government agencies.’
    • ‘But to make this vision a reality, the devices need a slice of the spectrum that would form a virtual park or an airwaves commons where equipment makers and others could experiment.’
    • ‘He sees Linux as the public OS platform and Wi-Fi as the public network commons.’
    • ‘The knowledge commons should be established as a global resource not one that should, or needs to be, carved up for individual gain.’
    • ‘My colleague Peter Barnes has proposed in his book, Who Owns The Sky?, a solution to global warming based on the reality that the sky is a commons and therefore belongs to all of us.’
    • ‘I do not own these ideas, nor do I own our institutions - they are a public commons to be debated in and argued over.’
    • ‘If faculty hope to reinvigorate a public commons of ideas, knowledge, and learning, they will have to deal with the fact that the profit motive may not be their only antagonist.’
    • ‘Natural resource commons and the social and ecological impacts associated with their loss have received a good deal of study by ecologists and resource managers.’
    • ‘Science is a commons in a more familiar economic sense as well.’
    • ‘Briefly stated, the tragedy of the commons occurs when a group holds a resource, but each of the individual members has an incentive to overuse it.’
    • ‘There are numerous documented examples of self-governing commons in which people work as a collective unit and respect the scarcity value of the resource.’
    • ‘It goes down easily on the left to depict broadcasting or medical research, the Internet or schooling, as a commons in need of public management.’
    • ‘Scaring the people to death works, but it also corrodes the public commons.’
    • ‘Communities dependent upon the commons do not have social regulations and that group ownership is an inferior solution.’
    • ‘I am not, but what the member's case does highlight is the danger of allowing more private ownership of the foreshore and seabed, as she is proposing, when her party started off proposing that it should be held in the commons.’
    • ‘Because the Web is a public place; it's the commons; it's where public communities gather; it's utterly uncontained.’
    • ‘The streets are the commons - they belong to the people but we let them be completely taken over by commercialism and the automobile.’
    • ‘But who are these locals, and what are the roots of their belief that only they, not the nation at large, should control the public commons surrounding their communities?’
    • ‘But this is the conclusion reached by each and every rational herdsman sharing a commons.’
    • ‘I always get nervous when people talk about privatizing the commons.’
    • ‘We need to keep this in mind while we pursue our defense of what little commons we have left today.’
    • ‘Linux gave us a way to do exactly that with operating systems and by helping us create the worldwide commons we call the Net.’
    • ‘But the property rights system described here is not, strictly speaking, a commons.’
    • ‘One is through international environmental agreements; the other is unilateral sanctions imposed by responsible commons users upon abusers.’
    • ‘The question became one of limits - to what extent is the commons common property?’
    nourishment, sustenance, nutriment, subsistence, fare, bread, daily bread
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1US A dining hall in a school or college.
      • ‘Jacob asked as soon as they were outside the dining commons.’
      • ‘The five of us made our way further in, past the metal doors that opened up into the gym from the commons.’
      • ‘Fifteen minutes later, the two of them sat down at a table in the dining commons.’
      • ‘The group was headed for the commons by way of the back hallways, at the other end of school from whence PK, Marissa, Melinda, and Brian had been chased.’
      • ‘I really don't want my last memory of this place for a week to be the dining commons.’
      • ‘Cassida says you're an idiot for forgetting that she hates the dining commons and can't eat there anyway.’
      • ‘There was something really weird about the flames, aside from the fact that they were inside the dining commons and couldn't be seen from outside.’
      • ‘After eating at the dining commons, Jacob skated across campus to Tivrusky Hall, the main lecture room for chemistry classes.’
      • ‘An insertion into the campus's historic ‘collegiate Gothic’ fabric, this dining hall and commons provides a new locus for a residential community.’
      • ‘Once they were gathered at a table in the dining commons, the debate continued.’
      • ‘The commons can be used for dining, casual study, presentations, and community meetings.’
      • ‘Will didn't reply so Kylie pulled him up and dragged him to a private corner of the commons.’
      • ‘A short while later, the two of them sat at a table in the dining commons with their trays.’
  • 3archaic Provisions shared in common; rations.


  • short commons

    • archaic Insufficient allocation of food.

      ‘a life of short commons’
      • ‘The threat of ‘short commons’ is the threat of an insufficiency.’
      • ‘This biscuit was to be kept strapped on the top of each man's knapsack, well tied, with brigade orders for no man to taste a morsel of it, unless given out in written orders to that effect, as our brigadier expected we should be on short commons while on the Pyrenees, and this was to be, in case of scarcity, our last resource.’
      • ‘They cultivate and survive in the bad environment, and are on short commons.’
      • ‘If these gales continued for any length of time it often meant short commons for them and their families, unless they had had the foresight to lay in a good stock of cured fish.’


Middle English: plural of common.