Definition of custom in US English:



  • 1A traditional and widely accepted way of behaving or doing something that is specific to a particular society, place, or time.

    ‘the old English custom of dancing around the maypole’
    ‘custom demanded that a person should have gifts for the child’
    • ‘I particularly enjoyed the depiction of old military traditions and customs.’
    • ‘Ancient customs practiced in a traditional society are serious business to the locals.’
    • ‘People are affected with their customs, traditions, religions and social demeanor.’
    • ‘Marriage is a festive affair, involving many old customs and traditions.’
    • ‘We lost a lot of traditions, we lost customs, religion and culture, which still now brings social problems and terrible unemployment.’
    • ‘The age old customs and traditions of the Tamils are held in high esteem by Keralites and they are preserved in modern Kerala.’
    • ‘In this new environment Achill customs and traditions were practised and even developed.’
    • ‘Cigarettes are demanded by consumers and form part of the social custom of many societies.’
    • ‘He also had a fine recall of times gone by and the old ways, customs and traditions.’
    • ‘The film-makers aim to show that despite growing up in England, young Asians still respect traditions and customs of their parent's homeland.’
    • ‘They were a very special kind of people who participated in, and kept alive our grand old Irish customs and tradition.’
    • ‘Deeply religious, she greatly valued the old customs and traditions.’
    • ‘His society considers the funeral custom of body viewing personal or dependent on the conscientious feelings of the individual.’
    • ‘She was among the most senior citizens in the Williamstown region and had a wealth of knowledge in relation to old customs, traditions and old times.’
    • ‘First, the nature of an Aboriginal claim must be identified precisely with regard to particular practices, customs and traditions.’
    • ‘Their traditions and customs have not been widely spread nor preserved.’
    • ‘This custom was traditionally observed at Whitsun but it has no link with the Restoration and was moved from its traditional Whitsun date as an expression of loyalty.’
    • ‘All that have specific traditions and customs, folklore, cuisine, and dress and may speak a different language.’
    • ‘Many ethnic groups had carried into Islam their own social customs, military traditions and administrative rules.’
    • ‘Despite legal prohibition, sexual exploitation of girls in the form of traditional and religious customs such as deuki still exist in Nepal.’
    tradition, practice, usage, observance, way, convention, procedure, ceremony, ritual, ordinance, form, formality, fashion, mode, manner
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    1. 1.1in singular A thing that one does habitually.
      ‘it was my custom to nap for an hour every day’
      • ‘On the second day of the Lunar New Year, it is the custom for married daughters to visit their parents.’
      • ‘As is the custom with visiting luminaries, he was asked to give advice about other problematic patients.’
      • ‘I learned there that having the governess as part of the family was not a normal Letzenstein custom.’
      • ‘That, and the fact that her SAC compartment was separated from everyone else's as was the custom for dignitaries visiting aboard a star cruiser.’
      • ‘Habitual consumption of either (it is not the custom to take both in any given day) says much about an individual's background and daily life.’
      • ‘I followed through with my regular custom of staying away from election coverage until about 8 pm.’
      • ‘It wasn't the normal custom within Ryder, and it shook things up right away.’
      • ‘These net deficits are easily offset by the increased custom among those who visit just once a week, the survey's authors say.’
      • ‘He knew that if he visited friends, they would feed him as was the custom.’
      habit, practice, routine, way, wont
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    2. 1.2Law Established practice or usage having the force of law or right.
      • ‘It is a recognition for the native title right to possess which can only be exercised in accordance with currently acknowledged laws and customs.’
      • ‘It also provided them with various common rights and established customs and practices which they used to structure their day, to appropriate goods and to eke out a living.’
      • ‘However, does it not require legislation to outlaw the custom of people parking in spaces reserved for disabled people?’
      • ‘Unwritten or implied agreements and customs can also be effective.’
      • ‘Thus, since 1977, at the latest, English customs rules are Community customs rules.’
      • ‘The International Tribunal shall have the power to prosecute persons violating the laws or customs of war.’
      • ‘They must have that connection by the laws and customs.’
      • ‘Established custom, normative precedent, conduct, and cumulative tradition, is typically based on Muhammad's example.’
      • ‘Moreover, it is often difficult to determine whether or not a new custom has crystallized into international law, and, if so, at what point.’
      • ‘The Board shall make its decision with regard to the custom and usage of the insurance and reinsurance business.’
      • ‘This rule does not apply if it can be established that a custom or usage is applicable to each permitting marriage between the two.’
      • ‘It refers to lands owned by natives under their customs or usages.’
      • ‘Indeed, many collective agreements, particularly at local level, are simply a distillation of established custom and practice.’
      • ‘The common law is practical; it is developed from the customs of the people, and I doubt if it can survive if it gets away from the customs of the people.’
      • ‘The extent to which the carrier has to undertake the loading of the vessel may depend not only upon different systems of law but upon the custom and practice of the port and the nature of the cargo.’
      • ‘But by long established custom, such exculpatory statements are also admitted into evidence.’
      • ‘Of course in time the laws and customs of any people will change and the rights and interests of the members of the people among themselves will change too.’
      • ‘Laws against adultery are a natural outgrowth of laws and customs insisting that marriages be monogamous.’
      • ‘It is hard to argue that one act creates customary law when the classical concept of custom comes from long usage and recognized scholarly comment.’
      • ‘The law was formed more by customs arising from litigation governed by formularies in notarial act books.’
  • 2British Regular dealings with a shop or business by customers.

    ‘if you keep me waiting, I will take my custom elsewhere’
    • ‘He says the growth in demand has paved the way for less legitimate businesses to snap up custom.’
    • ‘Collectively though, these blue chip stalwarts with their predictable, regular custom should not disappoint at current prices.’
    • ‘However, if it is to attract local custom, it will have to rethink its strategy.’
    • ‘The idea of the Windows-free promo is to attract tech - savvy custom at a time when consumer PC sales are flatter than a flat pancake.’
    • ‘It added that they helped regeneration, keeping schools open and providing custom to shops.’
    • ‘Those that survive have increased the range of goods and services to attract custom - a wide range of magazines or even photocopying services.’
    • ‘Instead, banks offer gifts such as plasma televisions to attract custom.’
    • ‘Organisers hope to attract custom from retail parks in Chelmsford and Colchester.’
    • ‘The research by Eagle Star Business Direct shows that, rather than living for and loving their business, it is the worry of losing valuable custom that keeps small business owners tied to their work.’
    • ‘Customers and potential customers will be lost to the plaintiff if they transfer their custom to the defendant in the belief that they are dealing with the plaintiff.’
    • ‘Interest aroused during such visits often leads to regular custom.’
    • ‘Good to hear that the drive to stock a better class of lager, aka ‘fancy foreign muck’, at Helperby's Half Moon Inn is attracting plenty of custom.’
    • ‘Management at The Riverside Hotel, Sligo remain vigilant in securing trade or group tour business and Irish custom has compensated any tourist loss.’
    • ‘Those that cater for the under-18s with a family room away from the bar, or which open earlier as a coffee shop, will attract more custom.’
    • ‘Last week, Owner Paul Reynolds tried to attract extra custom while Sainsbury's supermarket was closed and hopes to build on his success over the coming months.’
    • ‘He said one of the main aims would be to make better use of facilities such as the car park which, he said, was not attracting enough custom, despite its high quality.’
    • ‘It could also aim its marketing effort at attracting custom from groups beyond its current age income groups, for example by targeting children with organically produced snacks.’
    • ‘Casinos survive on domestic custom but solicit extra business from overseas, particularly at the high-roller end of the market.’
    • ‘If their business depends on custom, their customers will access their establishment more easily.’
    • ‘Companies desperate for custom are now offering larger sums to tempt consumers.’
    business, patronage, trade, support
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North American
  • Made or done to order for a particular customer.

    ‘a custom guitar’
    • ‘Lee creates one-of-a-kind designs and custom orders to fit any shape and size of both men and women.’
    • ‘As people become more attuned to ordering custom vehicles, we feel this trend will grow.’
    • ‘They can even be ordered with custom artwork and etching on the case.’
    • ‘When I ordered a custom item a couple weeks ago, I noticed that Lowes' internal systems are all tied into open source programs.’
    • ‘You could for example, order your maraschinos in custom colors and flavors.’
    • ‘Meanwhile, he sees a tremendous amount of custom framing from these orders alone.’
    • ‘This was one of many custom Fender guitars given to him by Leo Fender himself.’
    • ‘Should a customer make a large order for custom machines, IBM or HP's services organizations will rush to make the deal go through.’
    • ‘If you want your boots to be unique and personalized, you can get in touch with West Coast Shoe Company or Dayton Shoe Company to order custom motorcycle boots.’
    • ‘This means that farmers and the test of the industry will be able to order custom sugar beet varieties selected for the genes they contain.’
    • ‘The material is available in 20 different colors that are fade and weather resistant, or they will make you a custom color by special order.’
    • ‘Now they reach consumers via the Internet, and take custom orders from companies and government agencies.’
    • ‘Bax made one of his custom guitars for Johnny with a pocket on the back, in which a copy of the script has been placed.’
    • ‘Since custom cabinets can be ordered in any size you want, the sizing issue may point you in one direction over the other.’
    • ‘Now she makes many styles, and handles custom orders.’
    • ‘Since construction sites do not have the equipment to bend or cut re-bar, Ferneuf always fills custom orders.’
    • ‘According to Dean, the Motor Store's Dundalk outlet can fit customer cars with a custom exhaust to order.’
    • ‘For the truly self-indulgent, Viva Brasil in Genoa Nervi makes custom bikinis to order.’
    • ‘Some rainwear makers have a special order department for custom sizes.’
    • ‘My wife has also ordered custom dresses from the same woman.’


Middle English: from Old French coustume, based on Latin consuetudo, from consuetus, past participle of consuescere ‘accustom’, from con- (expressing intensive force) + suescere ‘become accustomed’.