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[siv-uh l] /ˈsɪv əl/
of, relating to, or consisting of citizens:
civil life; civil society.
of the commonwealth or state:
civil affairs.
of citizens in their ordinary capacity, or of the ordinary life and affairs of citizens, as distinguished from military and ecclesiastical life and affairs.
of the citizen as an individual:
civil liberty.
befitting a citizen:
a civil duty.
of, or in a condition of, social order or organized government; civilized:
civil peoples.
adhering to the norms of polite social intercourse; not deficient in common courtesy:
After their disagreement, their relations were civil though not cordial.
marked by benevolence:
He was a very civil sort, and we liked him immediately.
(of divisions of time) legally recognized in the ordinary affairs of life:
the civil year.
of or relating to civil law.
1350-1400; Middle English < Latin cīvīlis, equivalent to cīv(is) citizen + -īlis -il
Related forms
civilness, noun
anticivil, adjective
half-civil, adjective
half-civilly, adverb
overcivil, adjective
overcivilly, adverb
quasi-civil, adjective
quasi-civilly, adverb
supercivil, adjective
supercivilly, adverb
7, 8. respectful, deferential, gracious, complaisant, suave, affable, urbane, courtly. Civil, affable, courteous, polite all imply avoidance of rudeness toward others. Civil suggests a minimum of observance of social requirements. Affable suggests ease of approach and friendliness. Courteous implies positive, dignified, sincere, and thoughtful consideration for others. Polite implies habitual courtesy, arising from a consciousness of one's training and the demands of good manners.
7, 8. boorish, churlish. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for civil
  • Critics say the device is far from foolproof and raises civil liberties concerns.
  • But the move is raising concerns among privacy and civil rights advocates.
  • And my guess is the last time there was two weeks of nonstop civil disobedience may have been back in the civil rights movement.
  • The civil lawsuit seeks unspecified damages, attorneys fees and costs.
  • Further civil wars destroyed much of the library's contents.
  • Unlike the rest of this stuff, it's a crime rather than a civil matter.
  • Universities arise where there is political stability, civil authority and money.
  • Unfortunately the civil rights crowd now determines national policy.
  • The devil, and not a civil disagreement, is in the details.
  • The student-loan system has grown into an out-of-control monster tearing at the fabric of civil society.
British Dictionary definitions for civil


of the ordinary life of citizens as distinguished from military, legal, or ecclesiastical affairs
of or relating to the citizen as an individual: civil rights
of or occurring within the state or between citizens: civil strife
polite or courteous
a less common word for civic
of or in accordance with Roman law
relating to the private rights of citizens
Derived Forms
civilly, adverb
civilness, noun
Word Origin
C14: from Old French, from Latin cīvīlis, from cīvis citizen
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for civil

late 14c., "relating to civil law or life; pertaining to the internal affairs of a state," from Old French civil "civil, relating to civil law" (13c.) and directly from Latin civilis "relating to a citizen, relating to public life, befitting a citizen," hence by extension "popular, affable, courteous;" alternative adjectival derivation of civis "townsman" (see city).

The sense of "polite" was in classical Latin, from the courteous manners of citizens, as opposed to those of soldiers. But English did not pick up this nuance of the word until late 16c. "Courteous is thus more commonly said of superiors, civil of inferiors, since it implies or suggests the possibility of incivility or rudeness" [OED]. Civil case (as opposed to criminal) is recorded from 1610s. Civil liberty is by 1640s. Civil service is from 1772, originally in reference to the East India Company.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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