Land in communal use. Most frequently this is grassland or heathland used for animal grazing (see also greens and tyes), but the term can also be applied to arable, meadows or woods. Historically, the soil of the commons belonged to the manorial lords, but its use was subject to the common rights of the tenants. The number and definition of the common-right holders varies from common to common, but is often limited to the properties bordering a particular common. The pasturing of a set number of animals (variously called a beast-going, gate, share or stint ) is the most frequent common right, but additionally the tenants could have rights to take firewood (estover), timber for ploughs, gates or house repairs (bote), to dig for peat for fuel (turbary) or for ‘stone’ for road repairs.
Since the Commons Registration Act of 1965, greens and commons have become legally distinct: commons are subject to communal grazing rights, but greens are used for exercise or recreation – but in the past the terms were interchangeable.