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

Noun The bomb injured 12 civilians.
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun America’s Well-Armed Militias,’’ a show examining responses by six artists to factors that compel specific groups of American civilians to arm themselves. Steven Litt,, "Michelangelo, Liu Wei, ‘seenUNseen,’ and more in galleries, museums: Fall Arts Guide 2019," 15 Sep. 2019 No firefighters or civilians were injured during the fire. Zach Murdock,, "Woodland High junior firefighters called out of school to back up adults battling massive overnight fire in Beacon Falls," 29 Aug. 2019 Protesters have also disrupted train services and held tense stand-offs at stations, and one train station was the site of a brutal armed mob attack against civilians in July. Mary Hui, Quartz, "Hong Kong’s world-class subway could be the next company to face China’s wrath," 26 Aug. 2019 During the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s, Iraq attacked Kurdish civilians with chemical weapons and a rebellion was brutally suppressed. Erin Blakemore, National Geographic, "Today, the Kurds are spread across four nations. Who are they?," 16 Aug. 2019 Ninety-two of the wounded were civilians, Deputy Interior Minister Khoshal Sadat told reporters. Rahim Faiez And Cara Anna,, "Afghanistan in 2019: ‘Excellent progress’ made in negotiations with Taliban to withdraw U.S. troops, then car bomb rips through Kabul," 7 Aug. 2019 So, if something does happen, and an unarmed civilian is killed by a chokehold, they will be held accountable. Kynala Phillips, Essence, "Eric Garner's Daughter Says New York Will See Its Biggest March Yet If Officer Pantaleo Is Not Fired," 5 Aug. 2019 On radio calls, firefighters described main roads as parking lots surrounded by fire and filled with civilians who could not get out., "Of small communities across 11 states, more than 500 have a higher wildfire hazard potential than Paradise, Calif.," 23 July 2019 Federal prisons employ civilians who pay for their own food and health care, drive their own cars, live in their own homes and amuse themselves on their days off. New York Times, "The Cost of Running Guantánamo Bay: $13 Million Per Prisoner," 16 Sep. 2019

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

31 Oct 2019

Time Traveler for civilian

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

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More Definitions for civilian


How to pronounce civilian (audio)

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

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).


not being in agreement or harmony

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