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

Human rights organizations underscore the rising toll of fighting on civilians. The Christian Science Monitor, "Clues of peace in Afghanistan," 15 June 2018 Many of the recent attacks resulting in ranger deaths have involved the protection of civilians. National Geographic, "Virunga National Park Sees Its Worst Violence in a Decade, Director Says," 14 June 2018 By the end of last year at least 20 percent of South Sudan’s 1,900 medical facilities had been shut down due to the fighting, leaving 70 percent of civilians without access to adequate health care, according to the United Nations. Sam Mednick, The Seattle Times, "Attacks on South Sudan health facilities, workers increasing," 23 Apr. 2018 McKenzie also noted Syria could reconstitute its program and the strikes didn’t take out all of Syria’s chemical weapons facilities, which means Assad could use chemical weapons on civilians again in the future. Alex Ward, Vox, "The US bombing of Syria, explained in 400 words," 14 Apr. 2018 On Friday the first cease-fire deals were struck between Syria and rebels in the Daraa region, reportedly prompting some civilians to return home. Dina Kraft, The Christian Science Monitor, "Syrian civil war, on Israel's doorstep, brings swirl of changing attitudes," 11 July 2018 News media in Venezuela have previously reported the arrests of nearly 20 armed forces officers, and that Machado was among the civilians implicated in the case. Antonio Maria Delgado, miamiherald, "Venezuelan opposition activist says she isn't part of any Maduro assassination plot," 29 June 2018 The game show pits two teams, made up of celebrities and civilians, in a word game with a top prize of $10,000. Hal Boedeker,, "Meredith Vieira hosts '25 Words or Less' on WOFL," 11 July 2018 But for now, the most immediate danger to civilians in Al Hudaydah comes from the fighting. New York Times, "Battle Intensifies for Yemeni Port as Dock Workers Still Unload Aid," 19 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

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Statistics for civilian

Last Updated

17 Oct 2018

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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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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 state of commotion or excitement

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