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 The spokesperson said that with the help of police and a civilian, the man was transported to a nearby hospital for treatment. Benjamin Vanhoose,, "Plumber Talks Man, 24, Down After Spotting Him on Brooklyn Bridge: ‘I Was So Happy and Relieved’," 6 Dec. 2019 The base, which employs more than 16,000 military personnel and 7,400 civilians, remained on lockdown with slow evacuations underway throughout the day. New York Times, "Six Saudis Said to Be Questioned After Pensacola Navy Base Shooting," 6 Dec. 2019 He was shot dead by police after he was restrained by civilians, including a chef who fought off the attacker with an ornamental 5-foot narwhal tusk and another who brandished a fire extinguisher. Fox News, "University graduate Saskia Jones, 23, identified as second London Bridge attack victim," 3 Dec. 2019 When a bombing or shooting kills civilians in town, the journos race off with their cameras, microphones and notepads to capture the aftermath. Jordan Mintzer, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Sympathy for the Devil' ('Sympathie pour le diable'): Film Review," 2 Dec. 2019 Some Western military analysts believe that the crew on China’s icebreakers, though dressed as civilians, are really military personnel. The Economist, "The voyage of two icebreakers have been creating headlines in China," 28 Nov. 2019 Clint Lorance, who had been serving a 19-year sentence for ordering soldiers to fire on unarmed Afghan civilians, two of whom died. David Jackson, USA TODAY, "Donald Trump says he will block military from removing Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher," 21 Nov. 2019 It is equally offended by another House resolution imposing sanctions on selected Turkish officials for the country’s invasion of Syria and the bombing of civilians, resulting in 100,000 people fleeing the area. Ved Nanda, The Denver Post, "Nanda: Extraditing Fethullah Gulen to Turkey would erode the rule of law," 21 Nov. 2019 Earlier on Wednesday, a series of airstrikes in the town of Maarat Al Nouman killed six civilians, including three children, according to the White Helmets. Eyad Kourdi And Gul Tuysuz, CNN, "Attack on Syrian camp for displaced people kills sixteen," 20 Nov. 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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Time Traveler for civilian

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for civilian

Last Updated

12 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Civilian.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 12 December 2019.

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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).


a period of high artistic development

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