civil

adjective civ·il \ ˈsi-vəl \
Updated on: 4 Dec 2017

Definition of civil

1 a : of or relating to citizens
  • civil duties
b : of or relating to the state or its citizenry
  • civil strife
2 a : civilized
  • civil society
b : adequate in courtesy and politeness : mannerly
  • a civil question
  • It was hard to be civil when I felt so angry.
3 a : 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

Examples of civil in a Sentence

  1. They got married in a civil ceremony at city hall.

  2. It was hard to be civil when I felt so angry.

  3. She was barely civil to me.

Recent Examples of civil from the Web

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.

Origin and Etymology of civil

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

civil Synonyms

Synonym Discussion of civil

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 Defined for English Language Learners

civil

adjective

Definition of civil for English Language Learners

  • : 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


CIVIL Defined for Kids

civil

adjective civ·il \ ˈsi-vəl \

Definition of civil for Students

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.

civilly

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

Synonym Discussion of civil

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.

Law Dictionary

civil

adjective civ·il \ ˈsi-vəl \

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

civilly

adverb

Origin and Etymology of civil

Latin civilis, from civis citizen


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