Meaning of CIVIL in English


ˈsivəl, esp Brit sometimes -(ˌ)vil adjective

Etymology: Middle English, from Middle French, from Latin civilis, from civis citizen — more at city


a. : relating to, growing out of, or involving the relations of citizens one with another or with the body politic or organized state or its divisions and departments

civil institutions

interested in civil affairs

a contribution to civil philosophy

b. : concerned with or pertinent to internal affairs of a state or its citizenry in contrast to external affairs

civil strife between two political groups

civil embargo


a. : composed of or shared by individuals living and participating in a community

the oldest form of civil society were the early city-states of oriental antiquity — H.E.Barnes

b. : given to or marked by group activity or organization

man is a civil creature

3. : concerning, befitting, or applying to the collective citizenry or the individual citizen

a civil duty

the individual's civil right of free speech

— see civil liberty , civil rights


a. : living in or exhibiting a condition of social advancement marked by organization and stability of community life or government : not uncivilized or primitive

tribal anarchy giving way to civil order

b. : marked by public order : quiet and peaceable in behavior

areas still civil in the turbulent country

c. : educated, cultured, or sophisticated : not rustic and unlettered

a civil philosophy

civil jests


a. : based on or skilled in the Roman civil law

a civil doctor — Shakespeare

b. : relating to private rights and to legal proceedings in connection with them : relating to rights and remedies sought by action or suit distinct from criminal proceedings — distinguished from criminal and political

a civil liability

civil jurisdiction

a civil suit

a civil remedy

— see civil law

c. : as defined by law : having to do with legal rights or status

civil disabilities

— compare natural 5; see civil death


a. sometimes -er/-est : adequate in courtesy and politeness : marked by satisfactory adherence to social usage and sufficient but not noteworthy consideration for others : mannerly

even if he didn't like them he should have been civil — W.S.Maugham

it was all he could do to be civil to her — Mary Austin

I asked a civil question, and I expect a civil answer — D.H.Lawrence

b. sometimes -er/-est : showing goodwill, humaneness, or clemency : not savage or fierce

the civilest and most friendly people that we met with — Daniel Defoe

c. obsolete : sober , staid : not showy or audacious : quiet

d. : seemly in aspect : compatible with human sensibilities : presentable , shipshape

e. dialect , of weather : not inclement : favorable

7. of time : based on the mean sun and legally recognized for use by the general public in ordinary affairs — distinguished from sidereal

the civil calendar

a civil day begins at mean midnight


a. : belonging or relating to the general public, the pursuits, experiences, ways, and interests of the citizenry, or to civic or temporal affairs as distinguished from military, naval, ecclesiastical, or like specialized membership or affairs : civilian

new educational techniques, learned in the war just ended, should be put into civil use — Henry Wallace

the old conflict between the civil and the sacerdotal powers — Edward Clodd

b. : representing or serving the general public in the sphere of political rule or administration ; especially : belonging to or sanctioned by an executive department of a nation, state, or municipality

officials of a civil board

prohibiting a member of Congress from being appointed to any civil office

rates and hours set by civil regulations

9. obsolete : virtuous by nature but not regenerate : moral as distinguished from religious

civil righteousness


polite , courteous , courtly , gallant , chivalrous : civil now implies adequate consideration of others and forbearance from rudeness or unpleasantness

remember, then, that to be civil … is the only way to be beloved and well received in company, that to be ill-bred … is intolerable — Earl of Chesterfield

I mean to return his visit tomorrow. It will be only civil in return for his politeness, to ask to see him — Sheridan Le Fanu

polite may imply cold, formal, perfunctory deference to etiquette

let's be polite, but act as though she didn't exist — Sherwood Anderson

Often it differs from civil in suggesting somewhat warmer or more sincere consideration of others

the bishop seldom questioned Jacinto about his thoughts or beliefs. He didn't think it polite — Willa Cather

under ordinary circumstances he would have tried to be polite. As it was, he could hardly bring himself to give them a civil word of welcome — Norman Douglas

courteous may suggest a certain polish and delicacy of action; it may connote either mere formal deference, however perfect, to custom, or a genuine sincere consideration and regard

the baronet peeped at his grandson with the courteous indifference of one who merely wishes to compliment that mother of anybody's child — George Meredith

M. Laval owns a fine old historical painting in Chateldon, and he was courteous enough to permit me to view it — Upton Sinclair

courtly suggests the stately or ceremonious

Pitt Crawley treated her to a profound courtly bow, such as he had used to H. H. the Duchess of Pumpernickel, when he was attaché at that court — W.M.Thackeray

gallant and chivalrous , in this sense, indicate especially courtesy and attention to women, the former often suggesting either the spirited and dashing or the elaborate and over-attentive

the qualities … of surface chivalry and gallant attentiveness in her brilliant American friend had for a moment seemed to reveal a lack in me — Havelock Ellis

chivalrous in this sense often connotes high-mindedness and disinterested attention

ladies were supposed to be without sexual desire … gracious beings they were, without a sordid thought, according to the chivalrous notions of the time — W.E. Woodward

she had fainted from weakness, and he had felt strangely chivalrous and paternal — Ellen Glasgow

Webster's New International English Dictionary.      Новый международный словарь английского языка Webster.