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a person who is not on active duty with a military, naval, police, or fire fighting organization.
Informal. anyone regarded by members of a profession, interest group, society, etc., as not belonging; nonprofessional; outsider:
We need a producer to run the movie studio, not some civilian from the business world.
a person versed in or studying Roman or civil law.
of, pertaining to, formed by, or administered by civilians.
Contemporary Examples

Whether Zardari, or any civilian government, can navigate that dilemma is uncertain.
Obama Puts the Squeeze on Pakistan’s Zardari John Barry May 8, 2011

On later assignments we could return to our work among the civilian population in the country.
The Right and Left Are Wrong About My Movie Sebastian Junger July 20, 2010

Your contact with the civilian population is very limited.
Kabul’s Major Motion Picture: Cinema’s Rebirth in Afghanistan Justin Jones April 12, 2014

ISIS forces are operating in smaller groups and inside the civilian population to avoid being spotted from the sky.
Drone ‘Shortage’ Hampers ISIS War Dave Majumdar November 17, 2014

He had traded his convict uniform for civilian attire, though he still had on prison-issue footwear.
Why NYPD Couldn’t Cook The ‘Cannibal Cop’ Michael Daly July 1, 2014

Historical Examples

I have always remained a civilian, and as such have retained my other banker.
Punch, or the London Charivari, Vol. 158, February 25th, 1920 Various

It saves him from shame if he wins, for it were little to his credit to kill a civilian.
The God of Love Justin Huntly McCarthy

“Our troubles are not over,” replied a civilian who had joined the party, with equal emphasis.
Invaders from the Infinite John Wood Campbell

The most important German civilian camp, of course, for us, is that of Ruhleben.
The Better Germany in War Time Harold Picton

With us was an officer in uniform and a civilian—an agent of the Okhrana.
The Minister of Evil William Le Queux


a person whose primary occupation is civil or nonmilitary
(as modifier): civilian life


late 14c., “judge or authority on civil law,” from Old French civilien “of the civil law,” created from Latin civilis “relating to a citizen, relating to public life, befitting a citizen; popular, affable, courteous” (see civil). Sense of “non-military person” is attested by 1819 (earlier in this sense was civilian, attested from c.1600 as “non-soldier”). The adjective is from 1640s.


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