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[si-vil-yuh n] /sɪˈvɪl yən/
a person who is not on active duty with a military, naval, police, or fire fighting organization.
Informal. anyone regarded by members of a profession, interest group, society, etc., as not belonging; nonprofessional; outsider:
We need a producer to run the movie studio, not some civilian from the business world.
a person versed in or studying Roman or civil law.
of, pertaining to, formed by, or administered by civilians.
1350-1400; Middle English: student of civil law < Old French civilien (adj.); see civil, -ian
Related forms
anticivilian, adjective
noncivilian, noun
procivilian, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for civilians
  • The rover may have other jobs to do than to send pics to civilians.
  • Aside from the health and economic downsides that civilians face, tobacco-using military personnel encounter other risks.
  • Nearly two hundred protesters were arrested, and seventy civilians and fifty-one policemen were wounded.
  • He insults civilians, walks checks, abandons rentals and dodges tabs at fancy hotels.
  • Now elected civilians are deciding what the military can and cannot do.
  • Or you might fritz the good guys and civilians by mistake.
  • civilians have taken to real-time reporting of trouble spots on the country's dangerous northern highways.
  • But flying robots are agnostic about who they train their gaze upon, and can spy on cops as easily as they can spy on civilians.
  • They aren't so much stories that soldiers tell civilians as those that soldiers tell each other.
  • Fighting along the border is displacing tens of thousands of civilians.
British Dictionary definitions for civilians


  1. a person whose primary occupation is civil or nonmilitary
  2. (as modifier): civilian life
Word Origin
C14 (originally: a practitioner of civil law): from civile (from the Latin phrase jūs cīvīle civil law) + -ian
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 civilians



late 14c., "judge or authority on civil law," from Old French civilien "of the civil law," created from Latin civilis "relating to a citizen, relating to public life, befitting a citizen; popular, affable, courteous" (see civil). Sense of "non-military person" is attested by 1819 (earlier in this sense was civilian, attested from c.1600 as "non-soldier"). The adjective is from 1640s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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