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

International relations are normally pretty civil in this little American enclave, but that all changed during the Great Walleye War of the late 1990s. Ken Jennings, Condé Nast Traveler, "This Tiny Minnesota Town Is Completely Surrounded by Canada," 5 Nov. 2018 But both of those investigations are civil in nature, while the Justice Department inquiry could result in criminal charges. Andrew J. Hawkins, The Verge, "Tesla is reportedly under criminal investigation for Elon Musk’s tweets," 18 Sep. 2018 While there were booths and candidate-advocating crowds for all levels of Arizona government, the political split was civil. Jason Pohl, azcentral, "Arcadia Fourth of July Parade: 'Unity instead of division'," 4 July 2018 The guidelines were based on feedback from employees and designed to remind employees to be civil to each other, so that Google could preserve the company’s open and transparent culture, the spokesperson said. Nitasha Tiku, WIRED, "Google Tries New Rules to Curtail Harassment of Employees," 27 June 2018 The anti-war movement in Vietnam, the civil rights movement in the 1960s and early ’70s, both of those were more civil in tone. Jeet Heer, The New Republic, "On the civility debate and forgetting the ’70s.," 26 June 2018 The two-hour faceoff featuring Andrew Gillum, Gwen Graham, Chris King and Philip Levine was more civil than their previous gathering on Saturday night. Anthony Man,, "Democratic governor candidates face off in South Florida debate," 12 June 2018 The following week, an eviction order for the couple was set for December in the ongoing civil case. Vinny Vella,, "A Bucks County couple kept 31 cats in squalor. A new state law is helping prosecute them.," 7 July 2018 Reforms in the past decade have done away with barristers’ wigs and robes in most civil cases, and even at the Supreme Court. The Economist, "As temperatures rise, English lawyers’ costumes look odder than ever," 5 July 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

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Statistics for civil

Last Updated

15 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for civil

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

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More Definitions for civil



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

History and Etymology for civil

Latin civilis, from civis citizen

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Comments on civil

What made you want to look up civil? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a private place of worship

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