Legal Definition and Related Resources of Civil

Meaning of Civil

Derived from Latin civilis, a citizen as distinguished from a savage or barbarian. Byers v Sun Savings Bank, 139 P. 948, 41 Okl. 728. As opposed to criminal , the term indicates private rights and remedies.

Civil Alternative Definition

Pertaining to a citizen, as civil rights (9- V.) In contradistinction to “barbarous” or “savage,” indicates a state of society reduced to order and regular government. Thus, we speak of civil life, civil society, civil government and civil liberty. In contradistinction to “criminal,” to indicate the private rights and remedies of men, as members of the community, in contrast to those which are public and relate to the government. Thus, we speak of civil process and criminal process, civil jurisdiction and criminal jurisdiction. It is also used in contradistinction to “military” or “ecclesiastical,” to “natural” or “foreign.” Thus, we speak of a civil station, as opposed to a military or an ecclesiastical station; a civil death, as opposed to a natural death; a civil war, as opposed to a foreign war. Story, Const. § 789; 1 Bl. Comm. 6, 125, 251; Montesquieu, Sp. Laws, bk. 1, c. 3; Rutherforth, Inst. bk. 2, c. 2; Id. c. 3; Id. c. 8, p. 359; Heinec. Elem. Jur. Civ. b. 2, c. 6.

Synonyms of Civil

(Polite), adjective

  • accommodating
  • affable
  • amiable
  • chivalric
  • chivalrous
  • civilized
  • cordial
  • courteous
  • courtly
  • cultivated
  • deferential
  • dignified
  • diplomatic
  • easymannered
  • finemannered
  • genial
  • genteel
  • gentlemanlike
  • gentlemanly
  • gracious
  • mannerly
  • mild
  • obliging
  • polished
  • refined
  • respectful
  • urbane
  • wellbehaved
  • wellbred
  • wellbrought up
  • wellmannered
  • wellspoken

(Public), adjective

  • civic
  • civilian
  • communal
  • governmental
  • laic
  • laical
  • metropolitan
  • mundane
  • municipal
  • noncriminal
  • noneccliastical
  • nonmilitary
  • oppidan
  • political
  • secular
  • social
  • societal
  • temporal
  • unspiritual
  • urban
  • worldly
  • Associated Concepts: civil action
  • civil aeronautics board
  • civil arrest
  • civil authorities
  • civil case
  • civil cause
  • civil ceremony
  • civil contempt
  • civil contract
  • civil courts
  • civil damages
  • civil death
  • civil defense
  • civil disabilities
  • civiljunsdiction
  • civil law
  • civil liability
  • civil liberties
  • civil matters
  • civil officer
  • civil proceedings
  • civil rights
  • civil service
  • civil service commission
  • civil suit
  • civil unrest
  • civil war foreign phrases: Cum actio fuerit mere criminalis
  • instituí poterit ab initio criminaliter vel civiliter
  • When an action is merely criminal
  • it can be instituted from the beginning either criminally or civilly

Related Entries of Civil in the Encyclopedia of Law Project

Browse or run a search for Civil in the American Encyclopedia of Law, the Asian Encyclopedia of Law, the European Encyclopedia of Law, the UK Encyclopedia of Law or the Latin American and Spanish Encyclopedia of Law.

Civil in Historical Law

You might be interested in the historical meaning of this term. Browse or search for Civil in Historical Law in the Encyclopedia of Law.

Legal Abbreviations and Acronyms

Search for legal acronyms and/or abbreviations containing Civil in the Legal Abbreviations and Acronyms Dictionary.

Related Legal Terms

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Mentioned in these terms

Acquittal, Action, Affidavit Of Service, Affirmative Defense, Aggravation, Alternative Pleadings, Attainder, Attempt, , Burden Of Proof, Chief, Citizen, Civil Aeronautics Board, Civil Bail, Civil Commitment, Civil Contempt, Civil Death, Civil Jury Trial, Civil Procedure, Civil Rights, Clarendon, Constitution Of, Class Action, Community, Complaint, Compurgator, Count, Court, , Death, Deposition, Ecclesiastical, Embargo, Free Man, Freedom Of Religion, Habeas Corpus, Implead, Impleader, Insanity, Interdiction, Interpleader, Interrogatories, Joinder Of Causes Of Actions, Jurist, , Just Cause, Justice Of The Peace, Justification, Magistrate, Marksman, Master, Material Fact, National Origin, Nationality, Natural Rights, Nolo Contendere, Objection, Order, Parish, Penal Institution, Pension, Personal Action, Pleading, Preference Eligible, Preponderance, Process, Production, Profession, Queen’s Bench, Recorder, School District, Session, Court Of, Sex Discrimination, Talmud, Territories, , , Township, Trial.


You might be interested in these references tools:

Resource Description
Civil in the Dictionary Civil in our legal dictionaries
Browse the Legal Thesaurus Find synonyms and related words of Civil
Legal Maxims Maxims are established principles that jurists use as interpretive tools, invoked more frequently in international law
Legal Answers (Q&A) A community-driven knowledge creation process, of enduring value to a broad audience
Related topics Civil in the World Encyclopedia of Law


This definition of Civil is based on the The Cyclopedic Law Dictionary . This entry needs to be proofread.

Vocabularies (Semantic Web Information)


Resource Description
Topic Map A group of names, occurrences and associations
Topic Tree A topic display format, showing the hierarchy
Sitemap Index Sitemap Index, including Taxonomies The URI of Civil (more about URIs)

Civil in the Dictionary of Law consisting of Judicial Definitions and Explanations of Words, Phrases and Maxims

Latin civis. Pertaining to the citizen – the free inhabitant of an independent city, in distinction from the government, the soldier, the peasant, the ecclesiastic, and persons of other classes. Pertaining to the administration of government, and contrasted with military and ecclesiastical: as, civil – office, officer, tenure, qq. v.

Note: This legal definition of Civil in the Dictionary of Law (English and American Jurisprudence) is from 1893.

Civil in the One-L Dictionary

The law that applies to private rights as opposed to the law that applies to criminal matters. Civil law may also refer to the body of law developed from Roman law and used in places such as Louisiana, continental Europe, and in many other countries outside of the English-speaking world.

Note: This Civil definition in the One-L Dictionary for new law students is from Harvard Law School (HLS).


This term is an adjetive.

Etimology of Civil

(You may find civil at the world legal encyclopedia and the etimology of more terms).

late 14c., “relating to civil law or life; pertaining to the internal affairs of a state,” from Old French civil “civil, relating to civil law” (13c.) and directly from Latin civilis “relating to a citizen, relating to public life, befitting a citizen,” hence by extension “popular, affable, courteous;” alternative adjectival derivation of civis “townsman” (see city). The sense of “polite” was in classical Latin, from the courteous manners of citizens, as opposed to those of soldiers. But English did not pick up this nuance of the word until late 16c. “Courteous is thus more commonly said of superiors, civil of inferiors, since it implies or suggests the possibility of incivility or rudeness” [OED]. Civil case (as opposed to criminal) is recorded from 1610s. Civil liberty is by 1640s.



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