civil liberty


Definition of civil liberty

: freedom from arbitrary governmental interference (as with the right of free speech) specifically by denial of governmental power and in the U.S. especially as guaranteed by the Bill of Rights usually used in plural

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from civil liberty

civil libertarian noun or adjective

Examples of civil liberty in a Sentence

Freedom of speech is a civil liberty.

Recent Examples on the Web

For my ancestors who started and sustained the Civil Rights Movement like Martin Luther King, is was a matter of securing civil liberties and ending the reign of terror and violence that Black people faced post Jim Crow. Ebonee Davis, Harper's BAZAAR, "Model Ebonee Davis on How Suffering Leads to Power," 3 Nov. 2017 Now there are early signals a new tide of migration could be looming, as concerns rise about civil liberties, living standards and quality of life. Paolo Bosonin, WSJ, "Hopeless in Hong Kong: China’s Squeeze Triggers Talk of a New Exodus," 26 Dec. 2018 But the use of bait devices raises civil liberties concerns. Nadra Nittle, Vox, "Video: Police allegedly left a “bait truck” filled with Nike shoes in a black Chicago neighborhood," 7 Aug. 2018 And this has profound potential ramifications for even just the fundamental civil liberties on which democratic societies rely. Kurt Wagner, Recode, "Microsoft’s president says we need to regulate facial recognition tech before ‘the year 2024 looks like the book “1984”’," 7 Nov. 2018 The suit was brought by Big Brother Watch, Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union, and a number of other civil liberties organizations from Europe and North America, as well as the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and others. Sean Gallagher, Ars Technica, "“Bulk interception” by GCHQ (and NSA) violated human rights charter, European court rules," 13 Sep. 2018 The tactics have drawn Palestinian condemnation and questions about civil liberties. Washington Post, "World Digest: June 12, 2018," 12 June 2018 Google co-founder Sergey Brin reportedly was one of the key leaders who raised caution about the threat to civil liberties by staying in the region. Shirin Ghaffary, Recode, "Everything you need to know about Google’s controversial China plans in advance of today’s congressional hearing," 11 Dec. 2018 The 33 metrics used fall into four broad categories: discrimination within the family, threats to physical integrity, access to resources and civil liberties. Paul Hannon, WSJ, "U.S. Women Face Continued Discrimination Challenges," 7 Dec. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'civil liberty.' 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 liberty

1614, in the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about civil liberty

Statistics for civil liberty

Last Updated

6 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for civil liberty

The first known use of civil liberty was in 1614

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for civil liberty

civil liberty


English Language Learners Definition of civil liberty

: the right of people to do or say things that are not illegal without being stopped or interrupted by the government

civil liberty


Legal Definition of civil liberty

: freedom from arbitrary interference in one's pursuits (as in expressing thoughts, practicing a religion, or pursuing a living) by individuals or especially by the government and especially as constitutionally guaranteed usually used in pl. — see also civil right

Comments on civil liberty

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


standardized text or formulaic language

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Finance Words Quiz

  • a-piggy-bank
  • The etymology of mortgage is related most closely to which two words?
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!