ci·​vil·​ian | \ sə-ˈvil-yən How to pronounce civilian (audio) also -ˈvi-yən\

Definition of civilian

 (Entry 1 of 2)

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



Definition of civilian (Entry 2 of 2)

1a : of, relating to, or made up of civilians civilian concerns/demands the civilian population civilian customers/casualties The Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom are the highest civilian honors in the United States.
b : having the status of a civilian a civilian pilot
2 : operated or controlled by civilians civilian industry : possessed by or vested in civilians civilian authority
3 : intended or suited for use or consumption by civilians civilian goods With twin 2,520-horsepower engines and up to 19 seats, the Sikorsky S-92 is among the world's most powerful civilian helicopters.— Josh Harkinson

Examples of civilian in a Sentence


The bomb injured 12 civilians.

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The Sudanese Professionals' Association, which spearheaded protests that led the army to oust President Omar al-Bashir, says Saturday that their resistance will begin Sunday and last till the military council hands over power to civilians. Fox News, "Sudan protesters call for civil disobedience to push army," 9 June 2019 So, too, a thousand German soldiers and an estimated 3,000 French civilians. Jeffrey A. Engel, Twin Cities, "Jeffrey Engel: The lesson of D-Day for Americans today," 6 June 2019 Although law enforcement are exempt from the ban, the sheriffs argued in their brief to the Colorado Supreme Court that civilians should have the same access to magazines as typical officers and deputies. Elise Schmelzer, The Denver Post, "30 Colorado sheriffs join opposition to gun magazine ban facing challenge in state Supreme Court," 6 June 2019 Those changes would: Prohibit officers from shooting civilians actively contemplating suicide. Require officers to observe changes in condition and behavior and provide or seek first aid when necessary. Talis Shelbourne, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "New use-of-force policies aim to change first aid treatment, handling of suicidal civilians and more," 6 June 2019 Yes, that includes scores of innocent civilians, many of them children. Emma Dibdin, Harper's BAZAAR, "Emilia Clarke Tried to Warn Us That We Weren't Going to Like Daenerys's Game of Thrones Ending," 13 May 2019 The mines are going to take down civilians, the most vulnerable population. Megan Janetsky, Teen Vogue, "Meet the Women Who Detonate Land Mines in Colombia’s Former War Zones," 24 Apr. 2019 That conflict roils today whereas Russian agents, some uniformed and others disguised as civilians, try to seize that territory away from Kiev’s control. Alex Ward, Vox, "Russia just openly attacked Ukraine. That could mean their war will get worse.," 26 Nov. 2018 Stoking voters’ anger, under Peña Nieto’s watch, violence in Mexico has spiked against politicians, reporters, students, tourists and civilians, but just 2% of crimes in Mexico have been solved. Melissa Locker, Time, "'Santa Claus Won’t Save Mexico.' John Oliver Explores Electoral Outcomes on Last Week Tonight," 25 June 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


1817, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

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Statistics for civilian

Last Updated

13 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

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 How to pronounce civilian (audio) \

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

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