civ·​i·​li·​za·​tion | \ˌsi-və-lə-ˈzā-shən \

Definition of civilization 

1a : a relatively high level of cultural and technological development specifically : the stage of cultural development at which writing and the keeping of written records is attained

b : the culture characteristic of a particular time or place the impact of European civilization on the lands they colonized

2 : the process of becoming civilized civilization is a slow process with many failures and setbacks

3a : refinement of thought, manners, or taste exhibiting a high level of civilization

b : a situation of urban comfort Our African safari was quite interesting, but it was great to get back to civilization.

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from civilization

civilizational \ -​shnəl , -​shə-​nᵊl \ adjective

Examples of civilization in a Sentence

the impact of technical advancements on civilization We are studying ancient Greek civilization. a book about life on the planet after wars have destroyed civilization
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

The struggles of the gang, personal relationships, future dreams, the constant encroachment of civilization. Andrew Webster, The Verge, "Red Dead Redemption 2 is the most convincing open-world game ever made," 25 Oct. 2018 However, a new paper submitted to the International Journal of Astrobiology suggests that any intelligent civilizations on Super-Earths would have trouble blasting off. Jay Bennett, Popular Mechanics, "Any Aliens on Super-Earths Would Have a Tough Time Flying to Space," 23 Apr. 2018 And whenever the confines of civilization start to grate, expansive redwood forests are just a stone’s throw away. Sunset, "One Perfect Day in Fort Bragg, CA," 22 Jan. 2018 The Teopanzolco site originated with the Tlahuica civilization, which founded the city of Cuauhnahuac (today known as Cuernavaca) around 1200, as G. William Hood chronicles for Viva Cuernavaca. Meilan Solly, Smithsonian, "Earthquake Reveals 12th-Century Temple Hidden Within Aztec Pyramid," 12 July 2018 But last year, archaeologists resumed their efforts in a much more robust campaign to discover more bones and skulls — and more about the lost civilization. Ian Shapira, Washington Post, "Everyone thought he was killed by a giant rock at Pompeii. Then, they found his skull.," 29 June 2018 Once home to the Olmecs, the earliest known civilization in Mexico, much of the non-Catholic beliefs and practices can be traced back to these indigenous roots. Megan Spurrell, Condé Nast Traveler, "In Catemaco, Mexico's 'Land of the Sorcerers'," 29 Mar. 2018 Perhaps the seminal civilization for Asia, India is a land of innovation, the birthplace of everything from major world religions to the number zero. Antonia Neubauer, Town & Country, "How to Plan a Trip to Asia," 5 Oct. 2016 According to the Idaho State Journal, Zoo Idaho Director Peter Pruett said the bear was safely tranquilized Tuesday afternoon, and Idaho Fish and Game will transport the bear to a safe, more suitable environment away from civilization. Christina Lords, idahostatesman, "Wild bear breaks into S. Idaho zoo, climbs tree to wait out Fish and Game officials," 3 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'civilization.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of civilization

1760, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for civilization

see civil

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about civilization

Share civilization

Statistics for civilization

Last Updated

17 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for civilization

The first known use of civilization was in 1760

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for civilization



English Language Learners Definition of civilization

: the condition that exists when people have developed effective ways of organizing a society and care about art, science, etc.

: a particular well-organized and developed society

: all the societies of the world


civ·​i·​li·​za·​tion | \ˌsi-və-lə-ˈzā-shən \

Kids Definition of civilization

1 : an advanced stage (as in art, science, and government) in the development of society

2 : the way of life of a people Greek civilization

3 : all the societies of the world the end of civilization

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on civilization

What made you want to look up civilization? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


by force of circumstances

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Vocab Quiz

  • the-education-of-achilles-eugne-delacroix
  • Which is a synonym of discomfit?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!