civ·​il | \ ˈsi-vəl How to pronounce civil (audio) \

Definition of civil

1a : of or relating to citizens civil duties
b : of or relating to the state or its citizenry civil strife
2a : civilized civil society
b : adequate in courtesy and politeness : mannerly a civil question It was hard to be civil when I felt so angry.
3a : of, relating to, or based on civil law
b : relating to private rights and to remedies sought by action or suit distinct from criminal proceedings
c : established by law civil freedoms
4 : of, relating to, or involving the general public, their activities, needs, or ways, or civic affairs as distinguished from special (such as military or religious) affairs got married in a civil ceremony
5 of time : based on the mean sun and legally recognized for use in ordinary affairs the civil calendar

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Synonyms & Antonyms for civil



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civil, polite, courteous, gallant, chivalrous mean observant of the forms required by good breeding. civil often suggests little more than the avoidance of overt rudeness. owed the questioner a civil reply polite commonly implies polish of speech and manners and sometimes suggests an absence of cordiality. if you can't be pleasant, at least be polite courteous implies more actively considerate or dignified politeness. clerks who were unfailingly courteous to customers gallant and chivalrous imply courteous attentiveness especially to women. gallant suggests spirited and dashing behavior and ornate expressions of courtesy. a gallant suitor of the old school chivalrous suggests high-minded and self-sacrificing behavior. a chivalrous display of duty

civil, polite, and courteous mean following the rules of good behavior. civil is used for showing only enough proper behavior to avoid being actually rude. I know you're angry but try to be civil. polite is used of good manners and thoughtfulness. The host was polite and made us feel at home. courteous is usually used for a politeness that is somewhat dignified. The salesclerks were trained to be courteous always.

Examples of civil in a Sentence

They got married in a civil ceremony at city hall. It was hard to be civil when I felt so angry. She was barely civil to me.
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Recent Examples on the Web The agreement would settle nearly every civil lawsuit brought against Weinstein. Natalie Gontcharova,, "On First Day Of His Rape Trial, Harvey Weinstein’s Accusers Tell Us What’s Next," 6 Jan. 2020 The judge dismissed the city from the civil lawsuit that the family of Botham Jean filed after he was killed by Amber Guyger., "News of the Day From Across the Nation," 29 Dec. 2019 The proceedings were mostly civil, although some Republicans amped up the hyperbole. Dareh Gregorian, NBC News, "Trump impeached by the House for abuse of power," 19 Dec. 2019 Kelly is facing multiple civil lawsuits stemming from his actions in Denver. Jim Ayello, Indianapolis Star, "Colts have no plans to bench Jacoby Brissett or turn to Chad Kelly," 17 Dec. 2019 While local transportation departments don’t legally have to follow the manual, noncompliance with MUTCD is often cited in civil lawsuits. Aarian Marshall, Wired, "Sometimes Red Means Go—When It Comes to Bus Rides," 14 Dec. 2019 The Zakos family is seeking $25 million in damages in the civil lawsuit filed this week in Broward Circuit Court. Tonya Alanez,, "Family of driver killed by forklift sues contractors and unlicensed driver for $25 million," 12 Dec. 2019 Chick Bistany and Trooper Brian Orlowski, to federal court after filing a civil lawsuit, accusing the lawmen of using excessive force and wrongful death. Nicholas Rondinone,, "For nearly 12 years, Joseph Bak’s family has waited for Hartford State’s Attorney Gail Hardy’s decision on whether his death at the hands of two state troopers was justified," 9 Dec. 2019 Buckner currently runs the civil division in the Office of the Attorney General. Joe Sonka, The Courier-Journal, "Former Kentucky Derby Festival CEO Mike Berry to be state's tourism, arts secretary," 6 Dec. 2019

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

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First Known Use of civil

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for civil

Middle English, from Middle French, from Latin civilis, from civis — see civic

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Time Traveler for civil

Time Traveler

The first known use of civil was in the 14th century

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Statistics for civil

Last Updated

11 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Civil.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 22 January 2020.

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More Definitions for civil


How to pronounce civil (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of civil

: of or relating to the people who live in a country
: of or relating to the regular business of the people in a city, town, state, etc. : not connected to the military or to a religion
: polite but not friendly : only as polite as a person needs to be in order to not be rude


civ·​il | \ ˈsi-vəl How to pronounce civil (audio) \

Kids Definition of civil

1 : of or relating to citizens civil rights
2 : of or relating to matters within a country
3 : of or relating to the regular business of citizens or government that is not connected to the military or a religion
4 : polite without being friendly Those men, they used to be best friends. Now they can't be civil with each other.— Karen Hesse, Out of the Dust
5 : relating to laws about private rights rather than criminal laws She brought a civil lawsuit against the maker of the defective car.

Other Words from civil

civilly adverb You must treat the other team civilly, at least.


civ·​il | \ ˈsi-vəl How to pronounce civil (audio) \

Legal Definition of civil

1 : concerning, befitting, or applying to individual citizens or to citizens as a whole a civil duty — see also civil right
2 : marked by public order : peaceable in behavior
3 : of or relating to a legal system based on Roman law as opposed to the English common law
4 : relating to private rights and to judicial proceedings in connection with them especially : relating to legal matters other than those characterized as criminal a civil action a civil infraction
5 : defined by law : legal a civil disability
6 : of, relating to, or involving the general public, their activities, needs, ways, or civic affairs as distinguished from special (as military or religious) affairs the civil authorities the civil service

Other Words from civil

civilly adverb

History and Etymology for civil

Latin civilis, from civis citizen

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More from Merriam-Webster on civil

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for civil

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with civil

Spanish Central: Translation of civil

Nglish: Translation of civil for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of civil for Arabic Speakers

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