cit·​i·​zen ˈsi-tə-zən How to pronounce citizen (audio)
 also  -sən
: a native or naturalized person who owes allegiance to a government and is entitled to protection from it
She was an American citizen but lived most of her life abroad.
: a member of a state
: an inhabitant of a city or town
especially : one entitled to the rights and privileges of a freeman
: a civilian as distinguished from a specialized servant of the state
Soldiers were sent to protect the citizens.
ˈsi-tə-zən-lē How to pronounce citizen (audio)
 also  -sən-
Choose the Right Synonym for citizen

citizen, subject, national mean a person owing allegiance to and entitled to the protection of a sovereign state.

citizen is preferred for one owing allegiance to a state in which sovereign power is retained by the people and sharing in the political rights of those people.

the rights of a free citizen

subject implies allegiance to a personal sovereign such as a monarch.

the king's subjects

national designates one who may claim the protection of a state and applies especially to one living or traveling outside that state.

American nationals working in the Middle East

Examples of citizen in a Sentence

She was a United States citizen but lived most of her life abroad. a group of Japanese citizens
Recent Examples on the Web On Saturday, Suen hosted a gathering so that those in the local community could meet the man who is bringing life-saving medicines, supplies and treatment to his country's soldiers and citizens. Tony Holt,, 19 Nov. 2023 This ensured citizen scientists could become planet hunters. Swapna Krishna, WIRED, 17 Nov. 2023 Rodriguez, who is not a U.S. citizen, cannot vote in next year’s election. Seema Mehta, Los Angeles Times, 16 Nov. 2023 Japan Long-term care insurance is mandatory for Japanese citizens age 40 and over, while in the United States only a small portion of people voluntarily obtain coverage. Jordan Rau, Fortune Well, 16 Nov. 2023 In another indictment unsealed in October 2023, Innocent is alleged to have participated in a second hostage-taking incident in which one U.S. citizen was killed. Luke Barr, ABC News, 15 Nov. 2023 Thirty people or more die by suicide at the bridge each year on average, according to the release, with hundreds more stopped by law enforcement or other citizens. Kara Nelson, CNN, 19 Nov. 2023 Visa Waiver Program: Israel is preventing Palestinian Americans from entering Israel from the West Bank, an apparent violation of an agreement reached before the war that permits citizens from the United States and Israel to travel to the other nation without a visa. Raja Abdulrahim Yousef Masoud, New York Times, 18 Nov. 2023 Before last month, terrorist groups had not taken any Americans hostage this year, according to a recent report by the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation, an advocacy group that works for the release of U.S. citizens held abroad. Joanna Slater, Washington Post, 15 Nov. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'citizen.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English citizein, from Anglo-French citezein, alteration of citeien, from cité city

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of citizen was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near citizen

Cite this Entry

“Citizen.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Nov. 2023.

Kids Definition


cit·​i·​zen ˈsit-ə-zən How to pronounce citizen (audio)
: a person who lives in a city or town
: a member of a state
: a person who owes allegiance to a government and is protected by it

Middle English citizein, "citizen, resident of a town," derived from early French citeien (same meaning), from cité "town," derived from Latin civitas "state of being a resident of a town, citizenship," from civis "citizen" — related to city, civil

Legal Definition


: a native or naturalized individual who owes allegiance to a government (as of a state or nation) and is entitled to the enjoyment of governmental protection and to the exercise of civil rights see also Scott v. Sandford compare resident

Note: Under the Fourteenth Amendment, “all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.” A person born outside of the U.S. to parents who were born or naturalized in the U.S. is also a citizen of the U.S. A corporation is not considered a citizen for purposes of the privileges and immunities clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. A corporation is, however, deemed a citizen of the state in which it is incorporated or has its principal place of business for purposes of diversity jurisdiction.

: a resident of a town or state who is also a U.S. native or was naturalized in the U.S.

Anglo-French citezein, alteration of Old French citeien, from cité city

More from Merriam-Webster on citizen

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