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[kuhs-tuh m] /ˈkʌs təm/
a habitual practice; the usual way of acting in given circumstances.
habits or usages collectively; convention.
a practice so long established that it has the force of law.
such practices collectively.
Sociology. a group pattern of habitual activity usually transmitted from one generation to another.
toll; duty.
  1. (used with a singular or plural verb) duties imposed by law on imported or, less commonly, exported goods.
  2. (used with a singular verb) the government department that collects these duties.
  3. (used with a singular verb) the section of an airport, station, etc., where baggage is checked for contraband and for goods subject to duty.
regular patronage of a particular shop, restaurant, etc.
the customers or patrons of a business firm, collectively.
the aggregate of customers.
(in medieval Europe) a customary tax, tribute, or service owed by peasants to their lord.
made specially for individual customers:
custom shoes.
dealing in things so made, or doing work to order:
a custom tailor.
Origin of custom
1150-1200; Middle English custume < Anglo-French; Old French costume < Vulgar Latin *co(n)s()tūmin-, replacing Latin consuētūdin- (stem of consuētūdō), equivalent to consuēt(us) accustomed, past participle of consuēscere (con- con- + suē- (akin to suus one's own) + -tus past participle suffix) + -ūdin- noun suffix; cf. costume
1, 2. Custom, habit, practice mean an established way of doing things. Custom, applied to a community or to an individual, implies a more or less permanent continuance of a social usage: It is the custom to give gifts at Christmas time. Habit, applied particularly to an individual, implies such repetition of the same action as to develop a natural, spontaneous, or rooted tendency or inclination to perform it: to make a habit of reading the newspapers. Practice applies to a set of fixed habits or an ordered procedure in conducting activities: It is his practice to verify all statements. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for customs
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Dmitri was too fond of the customs of the west to satisfy the Muscovites.

    The Story of Moscow Wirt Gerrare
  • The baron guessed at this circumstance from the customs of that age, and happened to be in the right.

    Maid Marian Thomas Love Peacock
  • The elders then impart to him the customs and traditions of the tribe.

    Comparative Religion J. Estlin Carpenter
  • There was in this man an Oriental nobility choked by Western fashion and customs.

    My Double Life Sarah Bernhardt
  • The source of this information is naturally the customs Administration, which in Persia exists but in name.

British Dictionary definitions for customs


noun (functioning as singular or pl)
duty on imports or exports
the government department responsible for the collection of these duties
the part of a port, airport, frontier station, etc, where baggage and freight are examined for dutiable goods and contraband
the procedure for examining baggage and freight, paying duty, etc
(as modifier): customs officer


a usual or habitual practice; typical mode of behaviour
the long-established habits or traditions of a society collectively; convention: custom dictates good manners
  1. a practice which by long-established usage has come to have the force of law
  2. such practices collectively (esp in the phrase custom and practice)
habitual patronage, esp of a shop or business
the customers of a shop or business collectively
(in feudal Europe) a tribute paid by a vassal to his lord
made to the specifications of an individual customer (often in the combinations custom-built, custom-made)
specializing in goods so made
See also customs
Word Origin
C12: from Old French costume, from Latin consuētūdō, from consuēscere to grow accustomed to, from suēscere to be used to
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for customs



c.1200, "habitual practice," from Old French costume "custom, habit, practice; clothes, dress" (12c., Modern French coutume), from Vulgar Latin *consuetumen, from Latin consuetudinem (nominative consuetudo) "habit, usage, way, practice, tradition, familiarity," from consuetus, past participle of consuescere "accustom," from com-, intensive prefix (see com-), + suescere "become used to, accustom oneself," related to sui, genitive of suus "oneself," from PIE *swe- "oneself" (see idiom). Replaced Old English þeaw. Sense of a "regular" toll or tax on goods is early 14c. The native word here is toll.


"made to measure or order," c.1830, from custom (n.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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customs in the Bible

a tax imposed by the Romans. The tax-gatherers were termed publicans (q.v.), who had their stations at the gates of cities, and in the public highways, and at the place set apart for that purpose, called the "receipt of custom" (Matt.9: 9; Mark 2:14), where they collected the money that was to be paid on certain goods (Matt.17:25). These publicans were tempted to exact more from the people than was lawful, and were, in consequence of their extortions, objects of great hatred. The Pharisees would have no intercourse with them (Matt.5:46, 47; 9:10, 11). A tax or tribute (q.v.) of half a shekel was annually paid by every adult Jew for the temple. It had to be paid in Jewish coin (Matt. 22:17-19; Mark 12:14, 15). Money-changers (q.v.) were necessary, to enable the Jews who came up to Jerusalem at the feasts to exchange their foreign coin for Jewish money; but as it was forbidden by the law to carry on such a traffic for emolument (Deut. 23:19, 20), our Lord drove them from the temple (Matt. 21:12: Mark 11:15).

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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