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 The pair were arrested and taken into police custody for civil disobedience — but were later released. Alex Gurley, Peoplemag, 14 Feb. 2024 Barber previously served as president of the North Carolina NAACP, leading protests over voter access at the Statehouse that got him and more than 1,000 people arrested for civil disobedience. Ben Finley, Fortune, 29 Dec. 2023 Palestinians largely employed civil disobedience tactics, with light clashes limited mostly to the occupied territories. Dahlia Scheindlin, Foreign Affairs, 29 Nov. 2023 But seldom has a single song and dance turned into a collective act of civil disobedience. Leily Nikounazar, New York Times, 16 Dec. 2023 Protests spread and later included strikes, boycotts and acts of civil disobedience. Emily Bazelon, New York Times, 20 Nov. 2023 Whyte regards this show as being in conversation with his previous exhibitions, which have centered on themes of immigration, colonialism and civil disobedience, with Black figures depicted in scenes of protest, pageantry and solemnity. Leigh-Ann Jackson, Los Angeles Times, 28 July 2023 Her grandfather Naff was less enamored with the civil disobedience, mostly content to support his grandchildren. Benjamin Oreskes, Los Angeles Times, 19 Nov. 2023 The idea for a march on Washington wasn’t a new one — both Rustin and his comrade in civil disobedience, A. Philip Randolph, nearly pulled it off in the 1940s before F.D.R. pulled the plug, and the duo’s partnership is presented as a key factor for the successful 1963 version. David Fear, Rolling Stone, 15 Nov. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'civil disobedience.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1866, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of civil disobedience was in 1866

Dictionary Entries Near civil disobedience

Cite this Entry

“Civil disobedience.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Feb. 2024.

Legal Definition

civil disobedience

civil dis·​obe·​di·​ence
: 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

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