Meaning of COMMON in English

I. ˈkämən adjective

( often -er/-est )

Etymology: Middle English commun, comon, from Old French commun, comun, from Latin communis — more at mean


a. : of or relating to a community at large (as a family unit, social group, tribe, political organization, or alliance) : generally shared or participated in by individuals of a community : not limited to one person or special group

we, the people of the U.S., in order to … provide for the common defense — U.S. Constitution

a sense of common interest, a guild feeling in reaction against the extreme competitive individualism — J.M.Barzun

b. : known to the community ; especially : notorious as an accustomed general vexation

a common thief

punished as a common scold

maintaining a common nuisance

c. : belonging to or typical of all mankind : shared with all men

our common humanity

our common nature


a. : held, enjoyed, experienced, or participated in equally by a number of individuals : possessed or manifested by more than one individual

a common attribute

a common characteristic

: calling forth, giving rise to as source, or sending out a number of different items : marked by the same relationship to a number of persons or things

our common rights

the sharp teeth common to all cats

streets radiating out from a common center

we will help our allies against our common enemy

b. : marked by or resulting from joint action of two or more parties : practiced or engaged in by two or more equally

in the partnership of our common enterprise we must share in a unified plan — F.D.Roosevelt

our common defense

by common consent the partnership was dissolved

c. : open freely to the individual use of any member of a society or group

“folk-land”, the common property of the tribe — J.R.Green

the front hall, common to all the tenants — Dorothy Sayers

d. : available for indiscriminate or promiscuous use

a common woman

the common cup

e. : belonging to or appointed for the common (sense 6)

f. mathematics : belonging equally to two or more quantities

g. anatomy : formed of or dividing into two or more branches

the common carotid artery

common iliac vessels

3. : ceremonially or religiously unclean or unfit

eating nothing common on the holy day


a. : occurring or appearing frequently especially in the ordinary course of events : not unusual : known or referred to widely or generally because of frequent occurrence

the common is that which is found in the experience of a number of persons — John Dewey

the common judgment which sets tragedy above comedy as the greater art — Samuel Alexander

b. archaic : subject to or ensuing from widespread conversation : recognized or agreed on through copious discussion

young Arthur's death is common in their mouths — Shakespeare

c. chiefly Midland : usual

I'm as well as common — Ellen Glasgow

d. : vernacular — used of plant and animal names

cat is the common name for Felis catus


a. : of, relating to, or typical of the majority or to the many rather than the few : general , prevalent

a sentiment common , but not universal — W.G.Sumner

this revelation has … passed into the common consciousness of the civilized world — W.R.Inge

b. : characterized by a lack of privilege or special status

the common people

was then forced to take on a job as a common laborer


a. : characteristic of a usual type or standard : representative of a type : quite usual and average : entirely ordinary and undistinguished especially by anything superior

the everyday man and woman, the common people — I.M.Price

a common man, no holier than you and I — Thomas Hardy

the great gods … were not exempt from the common lot. They too grew old and died — J.G.Frazer

b. : having no claim or showing no pretense to rank, position, polish, learning, or culture

apart … from the common reader, there is an elite — A.L.Guérard

c. : satisfying accustomed criteria : attaining to an ordinary standard : adequate

the common honesty to face it — W.R.Inge

it was simply common courtesy to help him

d. : falling below ordinary standards : inferior , mean , second-rate

O hard is the bed … and common the blanket and cheap — A.E.Housman

labor was scarce and common at that — American Guide Series: Delaware

e. : falling below accustomed standards of conduct : lacking polish, learning, or taste : marked by or suggestive of the lax, crass, tawdry, earthy, or crude

a very common girl snubbed by the others

as Harris said, in his common vulgar way, the city would have to lump it — J.K.Jerome

f. of lumber : of or relating to several grades that are inferior to finish lumber : defective , knotty

7. now chiefly dialect : easily approachable : unreserved , informal

he's such a nice common fellow

8. : frequently met with and known better than types less often encountered

common salt

the common fern

specifically : most frequent and best known of its kind in a particular region — used of plants and animals


a. of gender

(1) : either masculine or feminine

the gender of F enfant is common

(2) : characterizing words of which in an earlier stage of the language some were masculine and some feminine

Danish has two genders, common and neuter

b. of a substantive : belonging to the common gender

c. of a syllable : either short or long

in Greek prosody a syllable is common that has a short vowel followed by a stop and a liquid or nasal, as the first syllable of teknon

d. of a grammatical case : denoting relations by a single form that in a more highly inflected language might be denoted by two or more different case forms

moon, as subject in “the moon is shining” and as object in “I see the moon”, is in the common case


ordinary , familiar , popular , vulgar : common , ordinary , and familiar all describe something that is very frequently or generally met with and hence is not at all strange or unusual. common stresses lack of distinguishing or exceptional characteristics

Norris quite definitely identified the romantic with that which is peculiar or special as opposed to the common — M.R.Cohen

and may connote coarseness or lack of refinement

weavers produced fine muslins, gauzes, calicoes, and the common cloths used by the poorer population — C.L.Jones

ordinary applies to what is met with in the routine, regular, or accustomed order of events; it may connote lack of rareness or of superiority

the business of the poet is not to find new emotions, but to use the ordinary ones — T.S.Eliot

it is not an ordinary war. It is a revolution … which threatens all men everywhere — F.D.Roosevelt

the mass of ordinary men, as definitely opposed to exceptional men — W.H.Mallock

familiar applies to what is well known because encountered often and lacks any suggestion of the foreign or exotic

the familiar arrangement of chairs and tables, always the same — Pearl Buck

the curious impression … that she had seen everything and everybody before. Every face was familiar to her — Ellen Glasgow

popular indicates the common due to acceptance, sometimes enthusiastic, by the people, especially commoners; it may imply a lack of qualities pleasing to the elite, upper classes, or learned groups

the popular faith in the omnipotence of education — M.R.Cohen

these brotherhoods were … thoroughly popular, drawing most of their support from the lower classes — W.R.Inge

compromise its values by publishing work that could be described as merely cheap or popular — H.V.Gregory

vulgar is used only occasionally to mean common; it usually suggests meanness, bad taste, crudeness, or crassness

the now vulgar opinion that [Samuel] Johnson was more distinguished as a talker than as a writer — J.W.Krutch

he never could have been vulgar; there is not in the whole range of English literature quite such a gentleman — George Saintsbury

not for the vulgar gaze but for an aristocratic and urbane inspection

Synonym: see in addition reciprocal , universal .

II. noun

( -s )

Etymology: Middle English commun, from commun, adjective


a. obsolete : the common body of people of a place, community, or polity

b. commons plural but singular or plural in construction : commonalty ; especially : people lacking noble, knightly, or gentle rank

the commons were pleased

2. commons plural

a. singular or plural in construction : provisions for a usually ecclesiastical or collegiate community or company

a modern university commons

b. singular in construction : a common table : a dining hall : a building housing an institution's dining hall

c. singular in construction : rations , fare

were eating an ample commons

shortening the commons when our supply train was intercepted

subsisting on short commons

3. commons plural but singular or plural in construction

a. : the political group or estate comprising the commoners

b. sometimes capitalized : parliamentary representatives of the commoners

c. often capitalized : a lower house of a parliament

4. : the legal right that arises either from a grant or contract or from prescription or operation of a statute and that allows the taking of a profit in another's land in common with the owner or in common with other persons


a. sometimes commons plural : land used in common by people of a community especially for pasture

b. : a stretch of land that is not enclosed or cultivated : waste , heath ; sometimes : a vacant lot

c. sometimes commons plural , chiefly New England : a publicly owned typically grass-covered plot usually in the center of a town or village : an open square

6. sometimes capitalized

a. : a religious service suitable for any of various festivals — compare proper

b. : the ordinary of the mass

c. : the part of a missal or breviary containing the common offices

7. : common stock

8. : a common board or piece of lumber

- in common

- out of common

III. intransitive verb

( -ed/-ing/-s )

Etymology: Middle English communen, from commun, adjective

1. obsolete : participate , share

2. obsolete : confer , talk

3. obsolete : to exercise a right together

Webster's New International English Dictionary.      Новый международный словарь английского языка Webster.