Definitions

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

  • transitive v. To raise from barbarism to an enlightened stage of development; bring out of a primitive or savage state.
  • transitive v. To educate in matters of culture and refinement; make more polished or sophisticated.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • v. Alternative spelling of civilise.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • transitive v. To reclaim from a savage state; to instruct in the rules and customs of civilization; to educate; to refine.
  • transitive v. To admit as suitable to a civilized state.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To reclaim from a savage or semi-barbarous state; introduce order and civic organization among; refine and enlighten; elevate in social and individual life.
  • To make subject to a civil instead of a criminal process.
  • To place under civil, as opposed to military, control; transfer from military to civil control.
  • To behave civilly or with propriety.
  • Also civilise.

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

  • v. teach or refine to be discriminative in taste or judgment
  • v. raise from a barbaric to a civilized state

Etymologies

From French civiliser, corresponding to civil +‎ -ize. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • It was an idea far ahead of its time, born of a desire not merely to "civilize" a seemingly moribund Muslim world, but to unite East and West, the Baghdad Railway could have fostered not just greater economic integration for European benefit, but an inter-cultural renaissance across Eurasia as well evoking heyday of the great Muslim Empires -- Ottoman, Safavid and Mughal -- that last united these lands into one broad cultural ecumene.

    Mark Levine: Sonic Peacemakers Go Where the Rest of Us Fear to Tread

  • Afghanistan is far larger and more rural geographically than Iraq was; some say that to adequately occupy and "civilize" the full population would take hundreds of thousands -- if not millions -- of troops.

    Stuart Whatley: Civilizing Afghanistan While We Decivilize Ourselves

  • And it definitely follows the pattern of a woman from the East coming out West to "civilize" it.

    Basics of the Western

  • The establishment, institutionalization, and eventual reform of the native chieftain system in the course of more than half a millennium revealed much about the Chinese imperial consciousness, determination, and power to "civilize" frontier societies and ethnic peoples.

    Between Winds and Clouds: The Making of Yunnan (Second Century BCE to Twentieth Century CE)

  • You have to be very carefully taught to accept lies devised to "civilize" and divide us using god as the enforcing instrument of fraud to enable our acceptance of willing submission, and our abject obedience to authority, which allows god to be erased from the picture and Mammon worshipped with stunning hypocrisy.

    Santa Fraud

  • From a Christian point of view, anger is one of those emotions that we have probably tried to "civilize" out of the faith.

    TEXAS FAITH: The use and misuse of anger | RELIGION Blog | dallasnews.com

  • These are both colonial projects that seek to "civilize" the other and transform them into whatever the state wishes them to be.

    Ma Worships the Yellow Emperor

  • This kind of thinking underpinned Canadian Indian policy from the mid-19th century and led to such disastrous policies as residential schools in attempts to "civilize" and assimilate Mr. Pound's savages.

    globe and mail readers respond to margaret wente

  • One prominent example you point to of the paternalistic impulse to "civilize" the Kikuyu is the effort to eradicate the practice of female circumcision, which helped inspire the first organized backlash against British rule.

    The Secret History

  • Note 30: Adele Perry has studied assisted immigration of white women to British Columbia as an effort to "civilize" the white male homosocial culture of the region and discourage mixed-race marriages; the combined impact of a skewed gender ratio and colonial race politics resulted in enhanced heterosocial contact but restricted socio-economic opportunity for these women.

    Gutenber-e Help Page

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