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

Example Sentences

She was a United States citizen but lived most of her life abroad. a group of Japanese citizens
Recent Examples on the Web Independence Institute president Jon Caldara sponsored a citizen ballot initiative to reduce Colorado’s flat income-tax rate from 4.55 percent to 4.4 percent. Ben Murrey, National Review, 17 Nov. 2022 In June, a Russian spy tried to secure an internship at the International Criminal Court under the guise of being a Brazilian citizen, according to Dutch intelligence. Max Colchester, WSJ, 16 Nov. 2022 January 13, 2020 - US citizen Mustafa Kassem dies of heart failure after more than six years detainment in an Egyptian prison. CNN, 16 Nov. 2022 When reached for comment, a spokesperson from the U.S State Department confirmed a citizen had died in Cabo but had no further comment about whether the incident was potentially being investigated for foul play. Ct Jones, Rolling Stone, 16 Nov. 2022 Boisvert said Hartford officers responded just after 5 p.m. Tuesday to a report from a citizen of a shooting in the area of 60 Main St. Officers found the victim suffering from gunshot wounds, Boisvert said. Hartford Courant, 15 Nov. 2022 Duties include patrolling residential neighborhoods, shopping centers and schools; doing traffic control; home vacation and elderly welfare checks; citizen assists; and working at public events requiring traffic management. Laura Groch, San Diego Union-Tribune, 13 Nov. 2022 At the same time, her husband, who is a French citizen, needed to leave the U.S. when his visa expired. Andrea Castillostaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 12 Nov. 2022 Voters approved a plan Tuesday to regulate groundwater use in southeastern Arizona, using a citizen ballot initiative for the first time to create an Active Management Area in the Douglas basin. Jake Frederico, The Arizona Republic, 11 Nov. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'citizen.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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 28 Nov. 2022.

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

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.

History and Etymology for citizen

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

More from Merriam-Webster on citizen

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