Definition of civilian in English:

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Pronunciation: /səˈvilyən/


1A person not in the armed services or the police force.
Example sentences
  • Eight more police and two civilians died when their vehicles ran over mines.
  • The awards are made to civilians and police officers who put their lives at risk to save others.
  • People were brutally assaulted by police, and by civilians who acted in collusion to them.
1.1 informal A person who is not a member of a particular profession or group, as viewed by a member of that group: I talk to a lot of actresses and they say that civilians are scared of them
More example sentences
  • There's a wonderful passage in Michael Tolin's book, ‘The Player’, in which the titular Hollywood executive Griffin Mill waxes venomous about ‘civilians’.
  • Like a family —or a cult—AA has its own language, recognizable only to initiates. People who aren't in AA are known as civilians.
  • Do famous people have to go out with other famous people? 'No, the girl I'm seeing now is a civilian.'


Of, denoting, or relating to a person not belonging to the armed services or police: military agents in civilian clothes
More example sentences
  • We have an ethical duty to avoid civilian casualties wherever possible.
  • Counterfeit papers and civilian clothes were produced for use by escapees.
  • Most soldiers mix the uniform with civilian clothes because items are out of stock.


Late Middle English (denoting a practitioner of civil law): from Old French civilien, in the phrase droit civilien 'civil law'. The current sense arose in the early 19th century.

Words that rhyme with civilian

Abbevillian, Azilian, Brazilian, caecilian, Castilian, Chilean, Churchillian, cotillion, crocodilian, epyllion, Gillian, Lilian, Maximilian, Pamphylian, pavilion, postilion, Quintilian, reptilian, Sicilian, Tamilian, vaudevillian, vermilion, Virgilian

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: ci·vil·ian

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