from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. The system of laws originated and developed in England and based on court decisions, on the doctrines implicit in those decisions, and on customs and usages rather than on codified written laws.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Law developed by judges through decisions of courts and similar tribunals (also called case law), as distinguished from legislative statutes or regulations promulgated by the executive branch.
  • n. typically in the phrase "common law system" -- a legal system that gives great precedential weight to common law (in sense 1), as opposed to a civil law, Islamic law, and Soviet law systems.
  • n. typically in the phrase "common law jurisdiction" -- a jurisdiction that uses a common law system (in sense 2), United Kingdom and most of its former colonies and possessions, including the United States.
  • n. (archaic) one of two legal systems in England and in the United States before 1938 (the other being "equity").

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. a system of jurisprudence developing under the guidance of the courts so as to apply a consistent and reasonable rule to each litigated case. It may be superseded by statute, but unless superseded it controls.
  • n. See under Common.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. (civil law) a law established by following earlier judicial decisions
  • n. a system of jurisprudence based on judicial precedents rather than statutory laws
  • adj. based on common law


Sorry, no etymologies found.


  • The abstrusest elements of the common law are impressed into a disciplined service.

    Is Shakespeare Dead?

  • If the Council deems any derogation from the common law useful, it ought to send a postulatum to the pope.

    The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 12: Philip II-Reuss

  • The common law was evolved by the fiction that the whole law was to be found in the bosoms of the judges (in gremio iudicum) and was conjured up from that repository as occasion required.


  • For we know that the common law is that system of law which was introduced by the Saxons on their settlement in England, and altered from time to time by proper legislative authority from that time to the date of Magna Charta, which terminates the period of the common law, or lex non scripta, and commences that of the statute law, or Lex Scripta.


  • About twenty years ago, in the famous "Clitheroe case," this was done, but the highest court in England, without any change by statute, reformed the common law and set the woman free.

    Address by Chief Justice Walter Clark Before the Federation of Women's Clubs, New Bern, N. C., 8 May, 1913

  • Railroads are not chartered for the purpose of granting privlieges and monopolies to a few individuals for their exclusive advantage, but for the benefit of the people, and however few the restraints contained in their charters, they are under obligations and conditions imposed by the common law of the land, which they should not be permitted to disregard.

    Journal of the House of Representatives of the State of Mississippi, December Session of 1862, and November Session of 1863

  • The truth is that Christianity and Newtonianism being reason and verity itself, in the opinion of all but infidels and Cartesians, they are protected under the wings of the common law from the dominion of other sects, but not erected into dominion over them.


  • Was the son of Francis Goldsmith, of St. Giles in the Fields in Middlesex, Esq; was educated under Dr. Nicholas Grey, in Merchant-Taylor's School, became a gentleman commoner in Pembroke-College in the beginning of 1629, was soon after translated to St. John's College, and after he had taken a degree in arts, to Grey's-Inn, where he studied the common law several years, but other learning more [1].

    The Lives of the Poets of Great Britain and Ireland

  • Rescripts contrary to common law contain a derogatory clause: all things to the contrary notwithstanding.

    The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 12: Philip II-Reuss

  • Finally, in answer to Fortescue Aland's question why the ten commandments should not now be a part of the common law of England? we may say they are not because they never were made so by legislative authority, the document which has imposed that doubt on him being a manifest forgery.



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