civil war


plural civil wars
: a war between opposing groups of citizens of the same country
a country on the brink of (a) civil war
often used in the capitalized names of specific wars
the Spanish Civil War
(American/U.S.) Civil War monuments

Note: The American Civil War, fought 1861–1865 between the United States and 11 southern states that had seceded from it, is also commonly known as the U.S. Civil War, or especially in the U.S. as the War Between the States or simply the Civil War.

Examples of civil war in a Sentence

a region that has had many civil wars The country is on the brink of civil war.
Recent Examples on the Web After Kadafi’s ouster, civil war broke out and the country was riven by two rival governments, one internationally recognized in the west, and the other a regional administration covering the east. Nabih Bulos, Los Angeles Times, 19 Sep. 2023 Derna was a key battleground during the country’s civil war, which saw the city fall under the control of Islamist militias. James Glanz, New York Times, 16 Sep. 2023 The civil war has forced Libyans to suffer through many years of intermittent fighting, with political stalemates and uneasy cease-fires peppered with outbursts of violence. Kareem Fahim, Washington Post, 13 Sep. 2023 Since the United States did not face another civil war, rebellion, or insurrection until 2021, Section 3 was largely defunct after the Reconstruction era came to a close. Matt Ford, The New Republic, 8 Sep. 2023 Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., announced new sanctions this week against a warring party leader in Sudan's civil war. Andrea Mitchell, NBC News, 7 Sep. 2023 Read More: What to Know About the Deadly Legacy of Decades-Old, Unexploded Weapons in Cambodia Alex Hiniker, an independent expert with the Forum on the Arms Trade, said casualties had been dropping worldwide before the 2011 uprising turned civil war in Syria. Time, 5 Sep. 2023 In photos: Catastrophic flooding devastates eastern Libya Libya was convulsed by the 2011 uprising against the rule of Muammar Gaddafi and ripped apart by civil war. Rhea Mogul, CNN, 13 Sep. 2023 Prosecutors said the men were seeking to inspire a U.S. civil war known as the boogaloo. USA TODAY, 8 Sep. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'civil war.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

circa 1533, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of civil war was circa 1533

Dictionary Entries Near civil war

Cite this Entry

“Civil war.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Oct. 2023.

Kids Definition

civil war

: a war between opposing groups of citizens of the same country or nation
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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