civil war

plural civil wars

Definition of civil war

: a war between opposing groups of citizens of the same country a country on the brink of (a) civil war often used in the capitalized names of specific wars the Spanish Civil Wara (U.S./American) Civil War monument

Note: The U.S. Civil War, fought 1861–1865 between the United States and 11 southern states that had seceded from it, is also commonly known as the American Civil War, or especially in the U.S. as the War Between the States or simply the Civil War.

Examples of civil war in a Sentence

a region that has had many civil wars The country is on the brink of civil war.
Recent Examples on the Web The civil war has already left tens of thousands of people dead, displaced more than two million people and led to what U.S. and other international observers say are ethnically motivated killings, rapes and other human-rights violations. Nicholas Bariyo, WSJ, 29 June 2021 The civil war gave rise to the Taliban, who took power in 1996. Kathy Gannon,, 29 June 2021 The civil war that erupted in the northern region of Tigray in November has become a byword for atrocities against Ethiopian citizens. New York Times, 21 June 2021 The civil war ultimately led to the death of my maternal grandmother, who had fallen ill while working in a labor camp. Jean Trinh, Los Angeles Times, 11 June 2021 The ensuing civil war left more than 3,000 people dead or missing and led to a contraction in the West African nation’s economy in 2011. Leanne De Bassompierre,, 1 June 2021 When a civil war does eventually end, what comes next? Janine Di Giovanni, The Atlantic, 29 May 2021 When China’s civil war ended in victory for the Chinese Communist Party, which declared the creation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, rival Nationalist forces retreated to Taiwan, just off the mainland. Annabelle Timsit, Quartz, 24 May 2021 By then the Spanish civil war was over, and Franco had won. Sebastian Junger, Time, 19 May 2021

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

circa 1533, in the meaning defined above

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Time Traveler for civil war

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The first known use of civil war was circa 1533

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Dictionary Entries Near civil war

civil union

civil war


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Statistics for civil war

Last Updated

18 Jul 2021

Cite this Entry

“Civil war.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Jul. 2021.

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More Definitions for civil war

civil war


English Language Learners Definition of civil war

: a war between groups of people in the same country

civil war


Kids Definition of civil war

: a war between opposing groups of citizens of the same country


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