civ·​i·​li·​za·​tion | \ ˌsi-və-lə-ˈzā-shən How to pronounce civilization (audio) \

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 \ ˌsi-​və-​lə-​ˈzā-​shnəl How to pronounce civilizational (audio) , -​shə-​nᵊl \ adjective

Synonyms for civilization


Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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 This is not an existential threat to our civilization. Patrick O'connell, Anchorage Daily News, "Q&A: There are lots of new questions about coronavirus. This doctor has some answers," 14 Mar. 2020 As our civilization has industrialized over the last couple centuries, global energy consumption has spiked more than twentyfold with no end in sight. Adam Hadhazy, Popular Mechanics, "Could We Build a Dyson Sphere?," 28 Feb. 2020 One theory suggests that the deforestation led to soil erosion, impacting the island’s ability to support wildlife and farming, and the collapse of its civilization. Fox News, "Easter Island discovery: Experts shed new light on the mystery of the civilization’s 'collapse'," 11 Feb. 2020 By Javier Garcia Martinez Our civilization is built on plastics. Scientific American, "Top 10 Emerging Technologies of 2019," 1 Dec. 2019 Small wonder, then, that absence has broad appeal today, when so many feel that modernity has failed the West, that our civilization has come close to destroying itself, and that our lifestyles are gaudy and pointless. Kyle Chayka, Harper's magazine, "Being in Nothingness," 25 Nov. 2019 Over the centuries, the Italian people have blessed our civilization with magnificent works of art, science, philosophy, architecture, and music., "The following is a transcript of remarks made by President Trump alongside President Sergio Mattarella of Italy on Wednesday at the White House:," 16 Oct. 2019 Three researchers were honored with a Nobel Prize in Chemistry this morning for their roles in the development of lithium-ion batteries, a technology that has made possible our mobile electronic civilization of cellular phones and electric cars. Quanta Magazine, "Nobel Awarded for Lithium-Ion Batteries and Portable Power," 15 Oct. 2019 Barzini returns to her home in Milan, all the more downtrodden, driven by the need to divorce herself from civilization. Carrie Battan, The New Yorker, "The Italian Supermodel Who Was Already Hiding in Her Apartment," 30 Apr. 2020

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

Time Traveler for civilization

Time Traveler

The first known use of civilization was in 1760

See more words from the same year

Statistics for civilization

Last Updated

18 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Civilization.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 May. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for civilization


How to pronounce civilization (audio)

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 How to pronounce civilization (audio) \

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).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

May 2020 Words of the Day Quiz

  • a blooming wisteria tree
  • Which is a synonym of exiguous?
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!