ci·​vil·​ian | \ sə-ˈvil-yən 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 coalition forces are now 5 kilometers (3 miles) away from the port, which has served as a lifeline for goods and aid coming in to Yemeni civilians. Ahmed Al-haj, The Seattle Times, "Saudi-led airstrike kills 7 in contested Yemen port city," 14 Nov. 2018 Regime and Russian war crimes have killed hundreds of thousands of civilians, whose death by barrel bombs and poison gas can be viewed on YouTube. Trudy Rubin,, "New Holocaust Museum exhibit reminds of how U.S. rejected desperate refugees before | Trudy Rubin," 3 July 2018 Up to 20,000 French civilians were reportedly killed in the bombings. Shelby Fleig, USA TODAY, "D-Day: Five things to know on the 74th anniversary," 6 June 2018 Hundreds of thousands of civilians were killed, abducted, or displaced during the decades-long armed conflict., "Aftermath: 'You're going back to East Oakland'," 4 June 2018 Kamchatka, which had been blocked off to civilians during the Cold War, offered the perfect spot. Brigit Katz, Smithsonian, "Charlie Russell, a Naturalist Who Lived Among Bears, Has Died at 76," 14 May 2018 That is what sent him and Enns to Kamchatka, which had been off limits to civilians for military reasons during the Cold War and thus was full of bears that had no contact with humans. Neil Genzlinger,, "Charlie Russell, 76, naturalist who befriended bears," 12 May 2018 The assault came hours after provincial officials said at least 30 civilians were killed along with 16 Taliban fighters during the overnight battle between Afghan government forces and insurgents in southern Helmand province. Rahim Faiez, The Seattle Times, "US airstrike reportedly kills dozens of Afghan civilians," 28 Nov. 2018 And the union is asking faith leaders to use their pulpit to help explain the rights of civilians as well as their responsibilities during encounters with law enforcement officers. Eric Dick, Indianapolis Star, "Fraternal Order of Police wants BMV to offer training on interacting with officers," 23 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


1817, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

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Statistics for civilian

Last Updated

7 Feb 2019

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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).


to express emotion in a dramatic way

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