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

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 Human Rights Watch contended in its statement that the mostly unarmed protesters didn't pose an imminent threat to Israeli troops or civilians, and therefore the use of live fire suggests a violation of international law. Ilan Ben Zion, Jewish Journal, "Rights group: Israeli lethal force in Gaza may be war crime," 13 June 2018 Imagine being fired from your job one day for running over a fleeing civilian, and getting another job, in the same field, in a matter of days. Breanna Edwards, The Root, "Georgia Cop Fired for Ramming Fleeing Suspect With Patrol Car Gets New Job as Sheriff’s Deputy in Neighboring County," 5 June 2018 Yes, there should be a response to the Syrian regime’s latest hideous chemical attack on civilians in Douma. Trudy Rubin,, "Trump tweet on missile strike underscores the incoherence of his Syria policy | Trudy Rubin," 11 Apr. 2018 In April 2015 the site reported that federal police had killed 16 civilians earlier that year in Apatzingán, a city in central Mexico. The Economist, "Latin America’s new media are growing up," 14 July 2018 Khan has pledged to support the U.S. in fighting terrorists but opposes U.S.-backed operations by the Pakistani military that have killed innocent civilians in its campaign to root out extremists. Abdul Salam, USA TODAY, "A cricket star is the front-runner to become Pakistan's next prime minister," 9 July 2018 Critics say Mnangagwa was Mugabe's most loyal acolyte and blame him for a government crackdown on rebels loyal to political rival Joshua Nkomo in the mid-1980s that rights groups say killed 20,000 civilians. Macdonald Dzirutwe, The Christian Science Monitor, "Zimbabwe's Mnangagwa promises fair and open general election," 30 May 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

19 Sep 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

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