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 theoretical mean sun and legally recognized for use in ordinary affairs the civil calendar Esoteric and sometimes outlandish balloons were floated: If we're not going to worry about civil time matching solar time, for instance, why not simplify global timekeeping even more by reducing the number of global time zones from twenty-four to five?— Michelle Stacey

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Synonyms & Antonyms for civil



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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

Frequently Asked Questions About civil

Why is it called a 'civil war'?

The sense of civil found in civil war is not the one meaning "mannerly," or the one meaning "civilized." It is the word’s earliest sense in English, “of or relating to citizens,” as a civil war refers to one between citizens of the same country.

What is civil disobedience?

We define civil disobedience as "refusal to obey governmental demands or commands especially as a nonviolent and usually collective means of forcing concessions from the government." Some notable examples of civil disobedience are the cases of Rosa Parks and Claudette Colvin, black women who refused to give up their seats on public buses, when white passengers—and a city ordinance—demanded that they do so.

What is civil service?

A country's civil service is the part of the government that takes care of the government's basic business. It is the administrative part of the government, and independent of the military, and the occupations of its members are neither political nor judicial. In most countries, the term civil service refers to employees selected and promoted on the basis of a merit and seniority system, which may include examinations.

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 Floyd's death at the hands of Chauvin and three other officers led to protests and widespread civil unrest. Carly Roman, Washington Examiner, "Former police officers charged in George Floyd's death to be tried separately," 12 Jan. 2021 Federal collections: Federal prosecutors in Northeast Ohio collected more than $40 million civil and criminal cases during fiscal year 2020, which ended Sept. 30. Cliff Pinckard, cleveland, "Gov. Mike DeWine refuses to give details on next rounds of COVID-19 vaccinations: The Wake Up for Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021," 6 Jan. 2021 Scott, who handles civil and domestic cases, said jury trials are in a holding pattern. Tracy Neal, Arkansas Online, "Covid-19 impacting Northwest Arkansas courts," 26 Dec. 2020 The allegations in the civil and criminal cases are largely based on the same set of facts. Teri Figueroa, San Diego Union-Tribune, "GirlsDoPorn actor pleads guilty to sex trafficking, conspiracy," 17 Dec. 2020 Social media posts have increasingly become an issue in civil and criminal cases. Rafael Olmeda,, "School district seeks social media posts of Parkland victims’ families," 8 Dec. 2020 The city first threatened civil and criminal repercussions but eventually settled on a $1,000 fine. Grace Hauck, USA TODAY, "Yes, some Americans may be required to get a COVID-19 vaccine. But not by the federal government.," 5 Dec. 2020 Rangel, who also is administrative judge for the civil and criminal state district courts, has been keeping tabs on COVID-19 cases and implemented a plan for all courts to resume proceedings in phases. Elizabeth Zavala,, "High-profile criminal cases in Bexar County likely won’t be heard until after January," 28 Nov. 2020 When doctors do fight the claims, Fox said, women seeking amends in civil or criminal court face an uphill battle. Rachel Weiner, Washington Post, "Woman sues after learning ‘anonymous’ sperm donor was her own fertility doctor," 19 Nov. 2020

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

19 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Civil.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Jan. 2021.

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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.

Choose the Right Synonym for 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.


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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