ci·​vil·​ian | \sə-ˈvil-yən also -ˈvi-yən \

Definition of civilian 

1 : a specialist in Roman or modern civil law

2a : one not on active duty in the armed services or not on a police or firefighting force

b : outsider sense 1

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Other Words from civilian

civilian adjective

Examples of civilian in a Sentence

The bomb injured 12 civilians.

Recent Examples on the Web

Jack, by contrast, has continually shown warmth and compassion toward the civilians there. Kayla Keegan, Good Housekeeping, "'This Is Us' Fan Theory About Nicky Pearson Is Extremely Dark," 28 Nov. 2018 Instead, the program will consist of a cadre of submarine veterans, both active and reserve, and civilians skilled in foreign navy operations. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "The U.S. Navy Is Taking 'Top Gun' to Sea with Submarines," 8 Nov. 2018 Some police and Guatemalan civilians offered the migrants water, and some locals drove Hondurans part of the way. Fox News, "Honduran migrant caravan crosses Guatemala border, US-bound," 15 Oct. 2018 Large wildfires have serious health effects for civilians near (and not so near) the flames. Carolyn L. Todd, SELF, "The Dangerous Health Risks That Could Follow the California Wildfires," 16 Nov. 2018 That was the basic premise behind the latest episode of Billy on the Street, the man-on-the-street quiz show that features Eichner and his famous pals basically accosting New York City civilians all in the name of pop culture. Dan Barna, Glamour, "Billy Eichner and Tiffany Haddish Want to Do a 'Woke' Remake of Hocus Pocus," 24 Oct. 2018 To unpack Ranchlands’ loftier objectives—beyond introducing civilians to ranching culture—requires a conversation with Duke Phillips, the company’s founder and CEO. Candice Rainey, Condé Nast Traveler, "The Colorado Ranch Retreat That Gives You a Real Taste of Cowboy Life," 20 July 2018 The system is particularly useful in light of recent attacks against civilians using vans and trucks as weapons. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "High-Powered Microwave Ray Gun Can Stall Cars, Trucks​​," 26 Apr. 2018 Violence intensified this year, including during an army crackdown in which civilians were killed. Stavros Agorakis, Vox, "Vox Sentences: Tomorrow’s big ballot initiatives, briefly explained," 6 Nov. 2018

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

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Statistics for civilian

Last Updated

12 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for civilian

The first known use of civilian was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for civilian



English Language Learners Definition of civilian

: a person who is not a member of the military or of a police or firefighting force


ci·​vil·​ian | \sə-ˈvil-yən \

Kids Definition of civilian

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a person who is not a member of a military, police, or firefighting force



Kids Definition of civilian (Entry 2 of 2)

: of or relating to people who are not members of a military, police, or firefighting force After serving in the army, he got a civilian job.



Legal Definition of civilian 

(Entry 1 of 2)

: a specialist in Roman or modern civil law



Legal Definition of civilian (Entry 2 of 2)

: of or relating to civil law as distinguished from common law

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More from Merriam-Webster on civilian

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with civilian

Spanish Central: Translation of civilian

Nglish: Translation of civilian for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of civilian for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about civilian

Comments on civilian

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


a nest or breeding place

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