civ·il | \ˈsi-vəl \

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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Choose the Right Synonym for 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, 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

Although Cruz’s lawyers wanted the decision to be made by Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer, who is handling the criminal case, Englander Henning is treating the issue as a civil matter governed by the state’s public records law. Rafael Olmeda,, "Should public get to see school district report on Nikolas Cruz? Broward judge to decide," 11 July 2018 Legal Aid, which represents low-income residents for free in civil matters, marked its 100th anniversary in 2016. Bruce Vielmetti, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Colleen Foley to take reins at Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee," 11 July 2018 The infractions will be considered initial evidence of negligence in civil court matters. Daniel Beekman, The Seattle Times, "Gun owners face fines up to $10,000 for not locking up their guns under new Seattle law," 9 July 2018 Defendants have 30 days to enter a plea in a civil matter in Connecticut after the answer date (April 10) of the original complaint, which was filed Feb. 14. Neil Vigdor,, "Susan Bysiewicz Unresponsive To GOP Lawsuit, Found In Default By Court Clerk," 9 July 2018 Because deportation proceedings are civil matters, not criminal, those who can’t afford lawyers aren’t assigned public defenders. Jonathan Lai,, "Most immigrants facing deportation don't have lawyers. N.J. is changing that," 3 July 2018 The most effective way to do so, former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano (now the president of the University of California) told my colleague Teresa Watanabe, was to treat illicit border crossings as civil matters, not criminal. Michael Hiltzik,, "The truth about 'zero tolerance': It doesn't work and always leads to disaster," 22 June 2018 Pitt also consulted on civil litigation matters, according to the statement. Kelsey Mo, azcentral, "High-profile forensic psychiatrist Steven Pitt killed outside Valley office," 1 June 2018 O'Connell, who represents the city in civil matters, said last year that for fairness, plaintiffs should also be identified because the police officers accused of wrongdoing are mentioned by name. Thomas Novelly, The Courier-Journal, "County attorney sued by critic for calling him a 'sexual predator'," 16 May 2018

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

Latin civilis, from civis citizen

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Statistics for civil

Last Updated

18 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for civil

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

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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 \

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 \

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

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Comments on civil

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one that holds something together

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