Definition of civil in English:



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

    ‘civil aviation’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘With the birth of civil and military aviation in the early 1900s, the focus of weather intelligence shifted from ballistics studies to aviation support.’
    • ‘In a world where civil disobedience was treated with toleration, that might be a good strategy.’
    • ‘Thus, the great civil rights movement of the 1950s and early 1960s developed independently of the labor movement.’
    • ‘The team is made up of about 60 military and civil affairs officers doing mostly humanitarian work.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The second use of the Law concerns civil matters.’
    • ‘Just as in the great civil rights movement forty years ago, we shall overcome.’
    • ‘Specific mission requirements also require the additional task organization of military police, civil affairs, and aviation assets.’
    • ‘Indeed, one civil engineer writing to the Irish Times this week expressed astonishment at the figure.’
    • ‘A medieval town dominated by fantastic architecture, it is a gem with ancient streets and alleyways punctuated by beautiful civil and ecclesiastical buildings.’
    • ‘Ultimately questions of grace inform matters of polity, both civil and ecclesiastical.’
    • ‘The issue is no longer when civil unions will be recognized but what form they will take.’
    • ‘The nation wasn't ready for a full civil rights movement.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘But the link between civil aviation deals and military follow-ups is well established.’
    • ‘Post-war expansion to meet military and civil aviation requirements brought further significant innovations, but at considerable cost.’
    • ‘In its most basic form, civil affairs operators are concerned with two missions that are opposite sides of a single coin.’
    • ‘And it is re-establishing the groundwork for again rationalizing a role for the military in civil political affairs.’
    • ‘As civil society is steadily developing, some of its elements continue to affect foreign policy.’
    non-military, civilian
    secular, non-religious, lay
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    1. 1.1(of disorder or conflict) occurring between citizens of the same country.
      • ‘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 the aftermath of disasters, public health services must address the effects of civil strife, armed conflict, population migration, economic collapse, and famine.’
      • ‘There are indications that a new civil unrest may break out.’
      • ‘These treaties apply when the armed forces of sovereign nations engage in armed hostilities, and some sub-rules apply during civil conflicts.’
      • ‘Amendments made to the Geneva Conventions in 1977 specified that prisoners taken in internal and civil conflicts must still be considered prisoners of war.’
      • ‘But there is the possibility here of a civil war or some kind of civil conflict.’
      • ‘The crisis raised the prospect 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.’
      • ‘More people die in wars and civil conflict every year than have died in the tsunami area.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘There were territorial conflicts, wars, civil disputes, arguments and resentment.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Smallholder farmers predominated in the 1960s and 1970s but declined as a result of civil conflict.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The diversity and fragmentation within ethnic groupings and the balance of tensions between those groups during the twentieth century prevented interethnic civil conflict.’
      • ‘The one certainty is that the 38-year civil conflict is about to enter its bloodiest phase to date.’
      internal, domestic, interior, home
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    2. 1.2Law Relating to private relations between members of a community; noncriminal.
      ‘a civil action’
      • ‘The January 2003 agreement was signed prior to the commencement of any civil proceedings.’
      • ‘A case can come in the ordinary criminal or civil jurisdiction and constitutional matters might arise.’
      • ‘The personal applicant was a defendant in civil penalty proceedings in the Supreme 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.’
    3. 1.3Law Relating to civil law.
      • ‘The Jordanian civil legal system has its foundations in the Code Napoléon, a French legal code.’
      • ‘Quebec's case law differs from the rest of Canada in that it follows a civil rather than a common law system.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Napoleon was a universalist who believed in a common civil code for all his conquered subjects.’
  • 2Courteous and polite.

    ‘we tried to be civil to him’
    • ‘I am so incredibly civil to him that people often take me to task for it.’
    • ‘How is it possible to be civil to people who constantly are placing you under assault?’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Nonetheless, he was quite empathetic and was still civil to me.’
    • ‘We're civil to each other, and we've worked together.’
    • ‘Well I can't actually be civil to this programme so I won't elaborate.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘I think what happened last night is they were 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.’
    • ‘But there's no reason why his children and I should not be civil to each other.’
    • ‘And the whole point of the movie is to ‘not be so selfish,’ but nobody acts civil to each other until the final moments.’
    • ‘On another note, I was reasonably civil to Dave today.’
    • ‘Why are the British obsessed with tea and crumpets and being civil about things?’
    • ‘I'll be polite and civil to him, and I honestly don't think he wants anything more than that.’
    • ‘It is a place where people are rude and in a hurry and don't know how to be civil to one another.’
    • ‘All sides are remaining civil, which is a very good thing.’
    • ‘If he could only be civil to me, that would be a thing.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The point of being polite or civil to another human being is not to demonstrate superiority, it is to demonstrate respect.’
    • ‘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).’
    polite, courteous, well mannered, well bred, gentlemanly, chivalrous, gallant, ladylike, gracious, respectful
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  • 3(of time measurement or a point in time) fixed by custom or law rather than being natural or astronomical.

    ‘civil twilight starts at sunset’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The only constraint appears to be a moonless sky for a couple of hours before civil twilight.’
    • ‘The planetary day begins at sunrise and not at midnight as in the civil calendar.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘A civil calendar of 365 days was created for recording dates.’
    • ‘It shows the bands of sunrise/set and civil, nautical, and astronomical twilight on a Mercator projection.’


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