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

For almost three weeks, many of them had served alongside Pashinyan in a unprecedented and peaceful campaign of civil disobedience against the sitting government. Matthew Bodner, The New Republic, "Armenia Is Breaking the Post-Soviet Mold," 4 May 2018 Five decades after King's death, that civil disobedience movement is back., "Today: Festivities and Fury," 15 May 2018 Yet within three weeks, Mr. Pashinyan, a former newspaper editor and political prisoner, had galvanized a civil disobedience movement that transformed the country’s political landscape. New York Times, "He Was a Protester a Month Ago. Now, Nikol Pashinyan Leads Armenia.," 8 May 2018 Pashinian declared a nationwide civil disobedience crusade Tuesday after the country’s ruling Republican Party blocked his bid to assume leadership, Reuters reports. Eli Meixler, Time, "Armenian Protestors Block Key Roads in Yerevan After Parliament Rejected Their Candidate for Prime Minister," 2 May 2018 Dozens of Catholic nuns, priests and lay people were arrested during a civil disobedience demonstration on Capitol Hill Tuesday. Alan Gomez, USA TODAY, "DACA was supposed to end Monday. It didn't, but DREAMERs remain anxious.," 5 Mar. 2018 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

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.

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First Known Use of civil disobedience

1866, in the meaning defined above

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Statistics for civil disobedience

Last Updated

18 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for civil disobedience

The first known use of civil disobedience was in 1866

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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

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