Definition of civil in English:



  • 1attributive Relating to ordinary citizens and their concerns, as distinct from military or ecclesiastical matters.

    ‘civil aviation’
    • ‘The issue is no longer when civil unions will be recognized but what form they will take.’
    • ‘The team is made up of about 60 military and civil affairs officers doing mostly humanitarian work.’
    • ‘In a world where civil disobedience was treated with toleration, that might be a good strategy.’
    • ‘A graduate of four military and two civil universities he has risen through the ranks from the time he was commissioned Second Lieutenant in May 1976.’
    • ‘Ultimately questions of grace inform matters of polity, both civil and ecclesiastical.’
    • ‘The second use of the Law concerns civil matters.’
    • ‘Just as in the great civil rights movement forty years ago, we shall overcome.’
    • ‘In its most basic form, civil affairs operators are concerned with two missions that are opposite sides of a single coin.’
    • ‘Post-war expansion to meet military and civil aviation requirements brought further significant innovations, but at considerable cost.’
    • ‘The nation wasn't ready for a full civil rights movement.’
    • ‘Thus, the great civil rights movement of the 1950s and early 1960s developed independently of the labor movement.’
    • ‘Specific mission requirements also require the additional task organization of military police, civil affairs, and aviation assets.’
    • ‘But while they inculcated the maxims of passive obedience, they refused to take any part in the civil administration or the military defense of the empire.’
    • ‘And it is re-establishing the groundwork for again rationalizing a role for the military in civil political affairs.’
    • ‘But the link between civil aviation deals and military follow-ups is well established.’
    • ‘In the course of that revolution, many things were done that would have been intolerable in the context of ordinary democratic politics and ordinary civil life.’
    • ‘As civil society is steadily developing, some of its elements continue to affect foreign policy.’
    • ‘A medieval town dominated by fantastic architecture, it is a gem with ancient streets and alleyways punctuated by beautiful civil and ecclesiastical buildings.’
    • ‘Indeed, one civil engineer writing to the Irish Times this week expressed astonishment at the figure.’
    • ‘With the birth of civil and military aviation in the early 1900s, the focus of weather intelligence shifted from ballistics studies to aviation support.’
    secular, non-religious, lay
    non-military, civilian
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    1. 1.1 (of conflict) occurring between citizens of the same country.
      ‘civil strife’
      • ‘Smallholder farmers predominated in the 1960s and 1970s but declined as a result of civil conflict.’
      • ‘At least 35,000 people have died in the civil conflict over the past decade and the death toll from civil strife since 1948 is estimated at 300,000.’
      • ‘A peaceful world is in the interests of all people, and a world torn by civil conflicts or wars over land, water, and wealth degrades the lives of all.’
      • ‘It is dedicated to helping women survivors of wars and civil strife and conflict to move from being victims to survivors to activists in their own communities.’
      • ‘There were territorial conflicts, wars, civil disputes, arguments and resentment.’
      • ‘Those who call for an end to impunity view crimes committed in wars or civil conflicts in the same way as crimes committed by common criminals.’
      • ‘The one certainty is that the 38-year civil conflict is about to enter its bloodiest phase to date.’
      • ‘They have also helped spur a quantum leap forward in assessing and quantifying the root causes and health consequences of war, disaster, and civil conflict.’
      • ‘In the aftermath of disasters, public health services must address the effects of civil strife, armed conflict, population migration, economic collapse, and famine.’
      • ‘More people die in wars and civil conflict every year than have died in the tsunami area.’
      • ‘It is the people who are the real attraction here: good-humoured and unintrusive, their nature seems much at odds with the ongoing civil conflict.’
      • ‘In other countries, the severity of the challenges has contributed to the outbreak of civil conflict and even to the collapse of the state itself.’
      • ‘The crisis raised the prospect of civil conflict.’
      • ‘The diversity and fragmentation within ethnic groupings and the balance of tensions between those groups during the twentieth century prevented interethnic civil conflict.’
      • ‘There are indications that a new civil unrest may break out.’
      • ‘His main concern is the problem of social and political order: how human beings can live together in peace and avoid the danger and fear of civil conflict.’
      • ‘Amendments made to the Geneva Conventions in 1977 specified that prisoners taken in internal and civil conflicts must still be considered prisoners of war.’
      • ‘When Louis XIV began his personal rule in 1661 he envisioned restoring order to a society suffering from civil strife, international war, and periodic waves of disease and famine.’
      • ‘These treaties apply when the armed forces of sovereign nations engage in armed hostilities, and some sub-rules apply during civil conflicts.’
      • ‘But there is the possibility here of a civil war or some kind of civil conflict.’
      internal, domestic, interior, home
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    2. 1.2Law Relating to private relations between members of a community; non-criminal.
      ‘a civil action’
      ‘a civil court’
      • ‘When the activities of a public body, or individual, are relevant to a private law dispute in civil proceedings, public law may in a similar way provide answers which are relevant to the resolution of the private law issue.’
      • ‘With no criminal proceedings pending in the case, the family instituted civil proceedings.’
      • ‘A case can come in the ordinary criminal or civil jurisdiction and constitutional matters might arise.’
      • ‘The January 2003 agreement was signed prior to the commencement of any civil proceedings.’
      • ‘The personal applicant was a defendant in civil penalty proceedings in the Supreme Court.’
    3. 1.3Law Relating to civil law.
      • ‘Quebec's case law differs from the rest of Canada in that it follows a civil rather than a common law system.’
      • ‘The Jordanian civil legal system has its foundations in the Code Napoléon, a French legal code.’
      • ‘Napoleon was a universalist who believed in a common civil code for all his conquered subjects.’
      • ‘The fact of the matter is that in Britain and in Ireland, our legal systems are based on a common law system, while in many continental countries it is based on a civil legal system.’
  • 2Courteous and polite.

    ‘they were comparatively civil to their daughter’
    ‘they try to work out their differences in a civil manner’
    • ‘And the whole point of the movie is to ‘not be so selfish,’ but nobody acts civil to each other until the final moments.’
    • ‘The point of being polite or civil to another human being is not to demonstrate superiority, it is to demonstrate respect.’
    • ‘If he could only be civil to me, that would be a thing.’
    • ‘Whatever his problem may be, he does not belong in a service occupation if he cannot act in a civil and courteous manner toward his guests.’
    • ‘We're civil to each other, and we've worked together.’
    • ‘I am so incredibly civil to him that people often take me to task for it.’
    • ‘But there's no reason why his children and I should not be civil to each other.’
    • ‘As for her acting civil to me in the textiles room, I must say, it was nicer than being insulted (which I'm sure she was extremely close to doing).’
    • ‘The conversation points may have been slight in content, but there is something to be said for taking the time to be civil to people.’
    • ‘I'll be polite and civil to him, and I honestly don't think he wants anything more than that.’
    • ‘On another note, I was reasonably civil to Dave today.’
    • ‘In other words, we need people to be civil to each other if social life is to function efficiently and with a minimum of unnecessary conflict and disruption.’
    • ‘I think what happened last night is they were civil to one another.’
    • ‘Well I can't actually be civil to this programme so I won't elaborate.’
    • ‘Why are the British obsessed with tea and crumpets and being civil about things?’
    • ‘All sides are remaining civil, which is a very good thing.’
    • ‘Nonetheless, he was quite empathetic and was still civil to me.’
    • ‘How is it possible to be civil to people who constantly are placing you under assault?’
    • ‘It is a place where people are rude and in a hurry and don't know how to be civil to one another.’
    • ‘I just wanted her to see me at the launch and maybe ponder that since she was going to keep running into me, it might pay to be civil to me.’
    polite, courteous, well mannered, well bred, gentlemanly, chivalrous, gallant, ladylike, gracious, respectful
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  • 3(of time) fixed by custom or law rather than being natural or astronomical.

    ‘civil twilight’
    • ‘The only constraint appears to be a moonless sky for a couple of hours before civil twilight.’
    • ‘Later a more accurate value of 365 1/4 days was worked out for the length of the year but the civil calendar was never changed to take this into account.’
    • ‘It shows the bands of sunrise/set and civil, nautical, and astronomical twilight on a Mercator projection.’
    • ‘A civil calendar of 365 days was created for recording dates.’
    • ‘The planetary day begins at sunrise and not at midnight as in the civil calendar.’
    • ‘Because the calendar had to be changed regularly to keep the civil calendar in phase with the astronomical one, the parapegma had movable pegs which could be adjusted as necessary.’
    • ‘Now one might expect that this measurement of time would either give the number of ritual calendar years since creation or the number of civil calendar years since creation.’


Late Middle English: via Old French from Latin civilis, from civis ‘citizen’.