AskDefine | Define civilian

Dictionary Definition

civilian adj : associated with or performed by civilians as contrasted with the military; "civilian clothing"; "civilian life" [ant: military] n : a nonmilitary citizen [ant: serviceman]

User Contributed Dictionary



  • /sɪˈvɪljən/


  1. A person who isn't a member of the military armed forces.
    Three civilians were apprehended by the soldiers and taken away in a military vehicle.


a person who is not an active or previous member, contributor, or physical supporter of a military armed force


  1. That which is not related to the military armed forces.
    The three detainees were actually army defectors wearing civilian clothing.


not related to the military armed forces

Extensive Definition

A civilian under international humanitarian law is a person who is not a member of his or her country's armed forces. The term is also often used colloquially to refer to people who are not members of a particular profession or occupation, especially by law enforcement agencies, which often use rank structures similar to those of military units.
The International Committee of the Red Cross 1958 Commentary on IV Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War Article 4.4 states that "[e]very person in enemy hands must have some status under international law: he is either a prisoner of war and, as such, covered by the Third Convention, a civilian covered by the Fourth Convention, or again, a member of the medical personnel of the armed forces who is covered by the First Convention. There is no intermediate status; nobody in enemy hands can be outside the law. We feel that this is a satisfactory solution – not only satisfying to the mind, but also, and above all, satisfactory from the humanitarian point of view." The ICRC has expressed the opinion that "If civilians directly engage in hostilities, they are considered 'unlawful' or 'unprivileged' combatants or belligerents (the treaties of humanitarian law do not expressly contain these terms). They may be prosecuted under the domestic law of the detaining state for such action".
Article 50 in Chapter II: "Civilians and Civilian Population" of Protocol I Additional to the Geneva Conventions defines that a civilian is not a privileged combatant. Article 51 describes the protection that must be given to civilians (unless they are unprivileged combatants) and civilian populations. Chapter III of Protocol I regulates the targeting of civilian objects. Article 8(2)(b)(i) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court also prohibits attacks directed against civilians. Not all states have ratified Protocol I or the Rome Statute, but it is an accepted principle of international humanitarian law that the direct targeting of civilians is a breach of the customary laws of war and is binding on all belligerents.
Under international maritime law and aviation law a distinction is made between passengers and crew that is similar to that of combatants and civilians under the laws of war. Under their own municipal law governments may extend the definition of who is a civilian to exclude those who work for the emergency services, because members of the emergency services may from time to time need additional legal powers over and above those usually available to ordinary citizens.
civilian in Czech: Civilista
civilian in German: Zivilperson
civilian in French: Civil
civilian in Indonesian: Warga sipil
civilian in Italian: Civile (status)
civilian in Japanese: 文官
civilian in Polish: Cywil
civilian in Portuguese: Civil
civilian in Finnish: Siviili

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

AG, DA, KC, QC, SSC, US attorney, attorney general, citizen, corporation lawyer, court-appointed lawyer, criminal lawyer, defense counsel, district attorney, junior counsel, law agent, leader, mouthpiece, nonbelligerent, noncombatant, nonresistant, nonresister, private attorney, prosecuting attorney, prosecutor, public prosecutor, publicist, silk, silk gown, solicitor general, special pleader, stuff gown, stuff-gownsman
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