Definitions

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

  • n. A person following the pursuits of civil life, especially one who is not an active member of the military, the police, or a belligerent group.
  • n. A person who does not belong to a particular group or engage in a particular activity.
  • n. A specialist in Roman or civil law.
  • adj. Of or relating to civilians or civil life; nonmilitary: civilian clothes; a civilian career.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A person following the pursuits of civil life, especially one who is not an active member of the military, the police, or a belligerent group.
  • n. A person who does not belong to a particular group or engage in a particular activity.
  • n. One skilled in civil law.
  • n. A student of civil law at a university or college.
  • adj. That which is not related to the military, police or other uniformed profession

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. One skilled in the civil law.
  • n. A student of the civil law at a university or college.
  • n. One whose pursuits are those of civil life, not military or clerical.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. One who is skilled in the Roman or civil law; a professor or doctor of civil law.
  • n. A student of the civil law at a university.
  • n. One whose pursuits are those of civil life, not military or clerical; especially, a non-military inhabitant of a garrisoned town.
  • n. One who, despising the righteousness of Christ, did yet follow after a certain civil righteousness, a justitia civilis of his own.
  • n. A covenanted civil servant in British India.
  • Pertaining to or characteristic of a civilian.

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

  • adj. associated with civil life or performed by persons who are not active members of the military
  • n. a nonmilitary citizen

Etymologies

Middle English, civil law judge, from Old French civilien, from civil, civil, from Latin cīvīlis; see civil.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Old French civilien. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Vowing to "let the enlightening begin", Mr Balkhi countered by quoting an explanation of the term 'civilian' as defined by the United Nations mission in Afghanistan, to which the ISAF representative replied: "Considering the Taliban's civilian casualty count during Eid, lecturing us on the definition of civilian is a bit of a joke."

    The Independent - Frontpage RSS Feed

  • I like to think of myself as a "civilian in uniform", an ordinary person who does, full-time, what most people would do anyway; consequently, I don't really like the term civilian, the opposite of which is jack-booted paramilitary thug (a term which I prefer, but isn't very user friendly).

    The Policeman's Blog

  • Thus, PMC contractors are civilians (in governmental, international, and civil organizations) authorized to accompany an army to the field; hence, the term civilian contractor.

    WN.com - Articles related to South Korea offers face-saving aid plan

  • PMC contractors are civilians (in governmental, international, and civil organizations) authorized to accompany an army to the field; hence, the term civilian contractor.

    WN.com - Articles related to South Korea offers face-saving aid plan

  • The one I mentioned above: the civilian is a deportable alien whom no other coutry will take.

    Discourse.net: Nation Mag Claims ICE has Network of Secret Detention Faciilities -- in the USA

  • U.S. officials note that Iran continues to enrich uranium to produce nuclear fuel under what it calls a civilian program.

    Bush Faces Wall of Arab Ire

  • Hezbollah escorted journalists to what they described as civilian areas destroyed by recent strikes.

    CNN Transcript Aug 9, 2006

  • It was an AR-15, which is -- for those of you who don't know, an AR-15 is what we call the civilian version of an M-16 out of the military.

    CNN Transcript Sep 29, 2006

  • And the series of things that Iran wants in return for it giving up its nuclear weapons ambitions -- the nuclear weapons option that it's current -- what it calls a civilian program, is going to give it, if it moves forward with it, are things that the Europeans alone can't give them.

    CNN Transcript Nov 29, 2004

  • They say that if the United States continues to destroy what they call civilian homes of Afghans, there will be serious consequences.

    CNN Transcript Oct 15, 2001

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Comments

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  • How, when and why did this word change its meaning from, (a) "a practitioner of civil law" - which makes sense - to (b) "nonmilitary" - which doesn't? 19th century usage (Dickens, Kipling, Twain) sounds faintly comic.

    February 13, 2010