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 For better or worse, though, the forces of civilization are winning: the GNX and its Regal Grand National stablemate won't be pounding the streets to rubble much longer. Tony Assenza, Car and Driver, "Tested: 1987 Buick GNX Exercises Brute Force," 11 Aug. 2020 Every civilization, every nation, has come through to the other side. Anchorage Daily News, "With no end to the pandemic in sight, coronavirus fatigue grips America," 11 Aug. 2020 The team found that traffic patterns would indicate that these and other gases fell from between 10 and 30 percent globally as civilization locked down. Matt Simon, Wired, "Yes, Emissions Have Fallen. That Won't Fix Climate Change," 7 Aug. 2020 It had been taken for granted in biblical and classical times, and practiced by virtually every previous civilization. Fara Dabhoiwala, The New York Review of Books, "Speech and Slavery in the West Indies," 3 Aug. 2020 Then, in the late 1800s, telescopes first revealed a surface full of intriguing features—patterns and landforms that scientists at first wrongly ascribed to a bustling Martian civilization. Nadia Drake, National Geographic, "Why we explore Mars—and what decades of missions have revealed," 29 July 2020 The new study’s genetic results also offer clues to possibly unraveling the history behind Easter Island (Rapa Nui), whose inhabitants erected the famed Moai monoliths before their civilization collapsed. Brian Handwerk, Smithsonian Magazine, "Native Americans and Polynesians Met Around 1200 A.D.," 8 July 2020 The Europeans, fully confident in the value of their own civilization, would present a wholly new threat to the Chinese world order. Michael Schuman, The Atlantic, "When China Met the West," 6 June 2020 History has been brutal to native peoples across the country in the name of civilization. Mimi Madrid, The Denver Post, "Madrid: Here’s why you should peel that “native” bumper sticker off your truck," 15 Mar. 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

14 Aug 2020

Cite this Entry

“Civilization.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 Aug. 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).


Test Your Vocabulary

Original Meanings Quiz

  • rembrandt painting a young scholar and his tutor
  • Which of the following is the earliest known sense of the word awe?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Dictionary Devil

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!