"nacreous inner layer of the shell of various bivalve mollusks," c. 1500, translating Medieval Latin mater perlarum, with the first element perhaps connected in popular imagination with obsolete mother (n.2) "dregs." Compare Italian madreperla, French mère-perle, Dutch parelmoer, German Perlmutter, Danish perlemor. It is the stuff of pearls but in a layer instead of a mass.
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.
"in the matter of, in the (legal) case of," c. 1600, probably from Duns Scotus; Latin, from re, ablative of res "property, goods; matter, thing, affair," from Proto-Italic *re-, from PIE *reh-i- "wealth, goods" (source also of Sanskrit rayi- "property, goods," Avestan raii-i- "wealth").