civil disobedience


Definition of civil disobedience 

: refusal to obey governmental demands or commands especially as a nonviolent and usually collective means of forcing concessions from the government

Examples of civil disobedience in a Sentence

In an act of civil disobedience, the family sent its tax money to an antiwar organization. A student organization is encouraging civil disobedience as a way to get the university to change its policies.

Recent Examples on the Web

But a new book shows how corporations successfully staged their own freedom movement by employing tactics associated with civil rights struggles: civil disobedience, test court cases and portraying themselves as victims of political persecution. John Blake, CNN, "How corporations won their own civil rights movement," 22 May 2018 About 600 women were arrested on Thursday during a nonviolent civil disobedience action organized by the Women’s March in partnership with Center for Popular Democracy Action and CASA in Action. Jen Kirby, Vox, "Families Belong Together protest planned for Washington, DC, and hundreds of other cities," 29 June 2018 The act of nonviolent civil disobedience, organized by the Women’s March, started at the DoJ, where women blockaded the building’s entrance during the lunch hour. Amanda Arnold, The Cut, "Capitol Police Arrest More Than 600 Women Chanting ‘Abolish ICE’," 28 June 2018 Pashinian immediately called for mass acts of nonviolent, civil disobedience across the city. Sabra Ayres,, "Armenia contemplates the unlikely: a nonviolent revolution on the cusp of victory," 8 May 2018 There were calls for civil disobedience and concerns about America slipping toward dictatorship. Shane Goldmacher, New York Times, "Schumer Misses Town Hall in Brooklyn, but Still Feels the Heat," 3 July 2018 But if Lukensmeyer is right, then one of the challenges of any attempt to spread civility far and wide will be in maintaining the critical distinction between civil disobedience and incivility. Nestor Ramos,, "A year ago I wrote about a national push for civility. So, how’s that going?," 28 June 2018 Women's March urged supporters to register online to join the June 28 civil disobedience at Kristen Jordan Shamus, Detroit Free Press, "Trump's executive order won't stop immigration protests in Michigan, D.C.," 20 June 2018 For 40 days, demonstrators planned to hold acts of civil disobedience like blocking traffic and refusing to leave public buildings every Monday nationwide. Washington Post, "AP Explains: Rebooting Poor People’s Campaign 50 years later," 15 June 2018

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

See More

First Known Use of civil disobedience

1866, in the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about civil disobedience

Share civil disobedience

Statistics for civil disobedience

Last Updated

23 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for civil disobedience

The first known use of civil disobedience was in 1866

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for civil disobedience

civil disobedience


English Language Learners Definition of civil disobedience

: refusal to obey laws as a way of forcing the government to do or change something

civil disobedience

civil dis·obe·di·ence

Legal Definition of civil disobedience 

: refusal to obey governmental demands or commands especially as a nonviolent and usually collective means of forcing concessions from the government

More from Merriam-Webster on civil disobedience Encyclopedia article about civil disobedience

Comments on civil disobedience

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


not any or not one

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Great Scrabble Words—A Quiz

  • scrabble-tiles-that-read-scrabble-quiz
  • Which of the following Q-without-U words means the number five in cards or dice?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!