from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Of, relating to, or befitting a citizen or citizens: civil duties.
  • adj. Of or relating to citizens and their interrelations with one another or with the state: civil society; the civil branches of government.
  • adj. Of ordinary citizens or ordinary community life as distinguished from the military or the ecclesiastical: civil authorities.
  • adj. Of or in accordance with organized society; civilized.
  • adj. Sufficiently observing or befitting accepted social usages; not rude: a civil reply. See Synonyms at polite.
  • adj. Being in accordance with or denoting legally recognized divisions of time: a civil year.
  • adj. Law Relating to the rights of private individuals and legal proceedings concerning these rights as distinguished from criminal, military, or international regulations or proceedings.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Having to do with people and government office as opposed to the military or religion.
  • adj. Behaving in a reasonable or polite manner.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Pertaining to a city or state, or to a citizen in his relations to his fellow citizens or to the state; within the city or state.
  • adj. Subject to government; reduced to order; civilized; not barbarous; -- said of the community.
  • adj. Performing the duties of a citizen; obedient to government; -- said of an individual.
  • adj. Having the manners of one dwelling in a city, as opposed to those of savages or rustics; polite; courteous; complaisant; affable.
  • adj. Pertaining to civic life and affairs, in distinction from military, ecclesiastical, or official state.
  • adj. Relating to rights and remedies sought by action or suit distinct from criminal proceedings.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Pertaining to the state in general; pertaining to organized society as represented by government.
  • Specifically, relating to the commonwealth as secularly organized for purposes of peace: opposed to ecclesiastical, military, or naval; relating to the citizen in his relations to the commonwealth as thus organized, or to his fellow-citizens: as, civil rights; or, in particular, relating to property and other rights maintainable in law at the owner's suit: opposed to criminal: as, civil actions, civil courts, civil remedies.
  • Reduced to order, rule, and government; not in a condition of anarchy; controlled by a regular administration; exhibiting some refinement of customs and manners; not savage or wild; civilized: as, civil life; civil society.
  • Intestine; not foreign: as, civil war.
  • Courteous; obliging; well bred; affable; often, merely or formally polite; not discourteous.
  • Characteristic of a citizen, as opposed to a courtier, soldier, etc.; not gay or showy; sober; grave; somber.
  • More specifically, the municipal law of the Roman empire, the phrase jus civile (civil law) being used in Roman law for those rules and principles of law which were thought to be peculiar to the Roman people, in contradistinction to those which were supposed to be common to all nations (jus gentium). By English and American legal authors civil law is now commonly used to signify the whole system of Roman law, of which the principal source is the collection made by the Emperor Justinian, consisting of the Digest, Code, and Novellæ Constitutiones. Sometimes the term is also applied to the unwritten law of the principal nations of continental Europe, especially of Germany, which is based on the Roman law. Some authors speak in the latter case of modern civil law. The civil law is the basis also of the law of Scotland, Spanish America, Louisiana, and Quebec.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. of or occurring within the state or between or among citizens of the state
  • adj. (of divisions of time) legally recognized in ordinary affairs of life
  • adj. applying to ordinary citizens as contrasted with the military
  • adj. of or in a condition of social order
  • adj. of or relating to or befitting citizens as individuals
  • adj. not rude; marked by satisfactory (or especially minimal) adherence to social usages and sufficient but not noteworthy consideration for others


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

Middle English, from Latin cīvīlis, from cīvis, citizen; see civic.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Latin cīvīlis ("relating to a citizen"), from cīvis ("citizen").


  • With the spread of internal purges inside the Communist Party of Kampuchea, having been a civil servant of a previous regime was no longer required to earn a death sentence; increasingly, “civil servants” or cadre from within Democratic Kampuchea itself were widely rounded up and terminated.

    The Death Toll in Cambodia: Quantifying Crimes Against Humanity (Craig Etcheson)

  • So that of civil honour the fountain is in the person of the commonwealth, and dependeth on the will of the sovereign; and is therefore temporary, and called ‘civil honour, ’ such as magistracy, offices, titles, and, in some places, coats and scutcheons painted; and men honour such as have them, as having so many signs of favour in the commonwealth: which favour is power.

    Chapter X. Of Power, Worth, Dignity, Honour, and Worthiness

  • Iraq has descended into nothing but a civil war, and there is nothing * civil* about it.


  • That shall civil sayings show] _Civil_ is here used in the same sense as when we say _civil_ wisdom or _civil life_, in opposition to a solitary state, or to the state of nature.

    Notes to Shakespeare — Volume 01: Comedies

  • Today, when the term "civil rights" appears to be an old-fashioned concept and the ideology of post-racialism penetrates the minds of many Americans, it is only proper to pause and recognize moments in history that remind us not only of how far we have come, but of how the fight for equality still continues.

    Rep. Alcee L. Hastings: The Struggle Continues for the Dream

  • As in Greece, the authorities censored the term civil war and employed phrases like “the War of Spain,” which seemed less divisive.42


  • Even the name of the war proved contentious; for years the government spurned the term civil war as dignifying the conflict and preferred bandit war.


  • Today, when the term "civil rights" appears to be an old-fashioned concept and the ideology of post-racialism penetrates the minds of many Americans, it is only proper to pause and recognize moments i...

    The Full Feed from

  • Yet it is so loathed by the Chinese Communist Party that even the phrase "civil society" is banned online and in print.

    China's Century-Long Identity Crisis

  • The exact term "secularism" has a negative connotation in the Arab world, so we prefer use the term "civil."

    Syria Opposition Leader Interview Transcript


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  • These are fun to read. It's amazing (and sad) how little we rely on these kinds of natural cues these days.

    December 10, 2007

  • Ted Burke on the weather:

    I used to hear the old people saying, "Whatever the third day of the month is, that's the way that month will go out." I'm after tellin' people way older than myself about that, and they're after takin' notice. Here's another saying, "If you goes out the night of the full moon, if that star is only a short distance away from that moon, well you're going to get a civil month. But if that star is as far as from here to John Hurley's house, you can look out for the wind." That's what the old fellows used to say.

    (Spoken of Fogo Island off the north shore of Newfoundland.)

    --quoted in Robert Mellin, Tilting: House Launching, Slide Hauling, Potato Trenching, and Other Tales from a Newfoundland Fishing Village, New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2003.

    December 9, 2007