[kom-uh n-law] /ˈkɒm ənˈlɔ/

of, relating to, or established by common law:
a common-law spouse.
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.
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
(modifier) common-law. denoting a marriage deemed to exist after a couple have cohabited for several years: common-law marriage, common-law wife

mid-14c., “the customary and unwritten laws of England as embodied in commentaries and old cases” (see common (adj.)), as opposed to statute law. Phrase common law marriage is attested from 1909.

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.)

Note: 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.


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