civ·​i·​lize | \ ˈsi-və-ˌlīz How to pronounce civilize (audio) \
civilized; civilizing

Definition of civilize

transitive verb

1 : to cause to develop out of a primitive state especially : to bring to a technically advanced and rationally ordered stage of cultural development

intransitive verb

: to acquire the customs and amenities of a civil community

Other Words from civilize

civilizer noun

Examples of civilize in a Sentence

Her parents hoped that boarding school might civilize her some. a teacher who had a civilizing influence on the students He is credited with civilizing the treatment of people with mental illnesses. efforts to civilize the health-care system They believed it was their duty to civilize the native people.
Recent Examples on the Web Gardens civilize our relationship with nature, but only barely so; there’s always the serpent of surprise lurking somewhere in the shrubbery. Christoph Irmscher, WSJ, 20 Dec. 2021 During the 1870s, Fred Harvey did more to civilize the Wild West than anyone with a six-shooter. Roger Naylor, The Arizona Republic, 10 Sep. 2020 Fifth is fine for everything from low-speed economy cruising to long-legged and very heady running at the top end, where the turbo system's softening, civilizing effect on the five-cylinder's inherent high-rev tingle is especially nice. Larry Griffin, Car and Driver, 22 May 2020 So why not spend it in the civilizing thrall of great art? Marley Marius, Vogue, 25 Oct. 2019 In their efforts to civilize the workplace, however, Roosevelt and his allies didn’t set up a new institution for workers to speak through. Caleb Crain, The New Yorker, 19 Aug. 2019 In one interpretation, the Law of the Jungle is the Raj, and the Monkey People are the hapless Indians whom the British came to civilize. Charles Mcgrath, The New Yorker, 1 July 2019 Schools are usually the last chance to civilize children if their family has failed to do so. WSJ, 21 Dec. 2018 Crusoe keeps Friday as a servant, implying that the best way to civilize a savage is to subordinate him. Pallavi Kottamasu,, 2 June 2018 See More

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

First Known Use of civilize

1595, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

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The first known use of civilize was in 1595

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Cite this Entry

“Civilize.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for civilize


civ·​i·​lize | \ ˈsi-və-ˌlīz How to pronounce civilize (audio) \
civilized; civilizing

Kids Definition of civilize

: to cause to have a more advanced or modern way of living


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