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From Middle English comun, from Anglo-Norman comun, from Old French comun (rare in the Gallo-Romance languages, but reinforced as a Carolingian calque of Proto-West Germanic *gamainī (common) in Old French), from Latin commūnis (common, public, general), from Proto-Indo-European *ḱom-moy-ni-s (held in common), from Proto-Indo-European *mey- (to exchange, change). Displaced native Middle English imene, ȝemǣne (common, general, universal) (from Old English ġemǣne (common, universal)), Middle English mene, mǣne (mean, common) (also from Old English ġemǣne (common, universal)), Middle English samen, somen (in common, together) (from Old English samen (together)). Doublet of gmina.



common (comparative commoner or more common, superlative commonest or most common)

  1. Mutual; shared by more than one.
    • 1918, W[illiam] B[abington] Maxwell, chapter XIX, in The Mirror and the Lamp, Indianapolis, Ind.: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, OCLC 4293071:
      Nothing was too small to receive attention, if a supervising eye could suggest improvements likely to conduce to the common welfare. Mr. Gordon Burnage, for instance, personally visited dust-bins and back premises, accompanied by a sort of village bailiff, going his round like a commanding officer doing billets.
    The two competitors have the common aim of winning the championship.
    Winning the championship is an aim common to the two competitors.
  2. Occurring or happening regularly or frequently; usual.
    • 2013 May-June, Katie L. Burke, “In the News”, in American Scientist, volume 101, number 3, page 193:
      Bats host many high-profile viruses that can infect humans, including severe acute respiratory syndrome and Ebola. A recent study explored the ecological variables that may contribute to bats’ propensity to harbor such zoonotic diseases by comparing them with another order of common reservoir hosts: rodents.
    It is common to find sharks off this coast.
  3. Found in large numbers or in a large quantity; usual.
    • 2012 March 1, Lee A. Groat, “Gemstones”, in American Scientist[1], volume 100, number 2, page 128:
      Although there are dozens of different types of gems, among the best known and most important are […] . (Common gem materials not addressed in this article include amber, amethyst, chalcedony, garnet, lazurite, malachite, opals, peridot, rhodonite, spinel, tourmaline, turquoise and zircon.)
    • 2019 February 3, “UN Study: China, US, Japan Lead World AI Development”, in Voice of America[2], archived from the original on 7 February 2019:
      Machine learning was the most common method of AI listed in patent requests.
    Commoner used to be commoner, but more common is now more common.
    Sharks are common in these waters.
    It differs from the common blackbird in the size of its beak.
  4. Simple, ordinary or vulgar.
    • 1893, Florian Cajori, A History of Mathematics
      If it be asked wherein the utility of some modern extensions of mathematics lies, it must be acknowledged that it is at present difficult to see how they are ever to become applicable to questions of common life or physical science.
    • 1591, William Shakespeare, “The First Part of Henry the Sixt”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, [Act IV, scene i]:
      This fact was infamous / And ill beseeming any common man, / Much more a knight, a captain and a leader.
    • 1768, Arthur Murphy, Zenobia
      above the vulgar flight of common souls
    • 1914, Louis Joseph Vance, chapter III, in Nobody, New York, N.Y.: George H[enry] Doran Company, published 1915, OCLC 40817384:
      She was frankly disappointed. For some reason she had thought to discover a burglar of one or another accepted type—either a dashing cracksman in full-blown evening dress, lithe, polished, pantherish, or a common yegg, a red-eyed, unshaven burly brute in the rags and tatters of a tramp.
  5. (grammar) In some languages, particularly Germanic languages, of the gender originating from the coalescence of the masculine and feminine categories of nouns.
  6. (grammar) Of or pertaining to common nouns as opposed to proper nouns.
  7. Vernacular, referring to the name of a kind of plant or animal, i.e., common name vs. scientific name.
  8. (obsolete) Profane; polluted.
  9. (obsolete) Given to lewd habits; prostitute.



See also[edit]


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.


common (plural commons)

  1. Mutual good, shared by more than one.
  2. A tract of land in common ownership; common land.
    • 1944, Miles Burton, chapter 5, in The Three Corpse Trick:
      The hovel stood in the centre of what had once been a vegetable garden, but was now a patch of rank weeds. Surrounding this, almost like a zareba, was an irregular ring of gorse and brambles, an unclaimed vestige of the original common.
  3. The people; the community.
  4. (law) The right of taking a profit in the land of another, in common either with the owner or with other persons; so called from the community of interest which arises between the claimant of the right and the owner of the soil, or between the claimants and other commoners entitled to the same right.



common (third-person singular simple present commons, present participle commoning, simple past and past participle commoned)

  1. (obsolete) To communicate (something).
    • 1526, William Tyndale, trans, Bible, Luke XXII:
      Then entred Satan into Judas, whose syr name was iscariot (which was of the nombre off the twelve) and he went his waye, and commened with the hye prestes and officers, how he wolde betraye hym vnto them.
  2. (obsolete) To converse, talk.
  3. (obsolete) To have sex.
  4. (obsolete) To participate.
  5. (obsolete) To have a joint right with others in common ground.
  6. (obsolete) To board together; to eat at a table in common.

Derived terms[edit]


  • common at OneLook Dictionary Search
  • common in Keywords for Today: A 21st Century Vocabulary, edited by The Keywords Project, Colin MacCabe, Holly Yanacek, 2018.
  • common” in The Century Dictionary, New York, N.Y.: The Century Co., 1911.