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Borrowed from Latin civilitas: compare French civilité. English equivalent civil +‎ -ity.


  • IPA(key): /sɪˈvɪl.ɪ.ti/
    • (file)


civility (countable and uncountable, plural civilities)

  1. Speech or behaviour that is fit for civil interactions; politeness, courtesy. [from 16th c.]
    • 1726 October 28, [Jonathan Swift], “The Emperor of Lilliput, Attended by Several of the Nobility, Come to See the Author in His Confinement. []”, in Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. [] [Gulliver’s Travels], volume I, London: [] Benj[amin] Motte, [], →OCLC, part I (A Voyage to Lilliput), page 43:
      This is an exact Inventory of what we found about the Body of the Man-Mountain, who uſed us with great Civility, and due Reſpect to your Majefty's Commiſſion.
    • December 1749 Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield, letter to his son
      The insolent civility of a proud man is, if possible, more shocking than his rudeness could be.
  2. (chiefly in the plural) An individual act or expression of polite behaviour; a courtesy. [from 17th c.]
  3. (now archaic) The state or fact of being civilized; civilization. [from 16th c.]
    • 1612, John Davies, Discoverie of the True Causes why Ireland was never entirely subdued:
      Monarchies have risen from barbarism to civility, and fallen again to ruin.
  4. (obsolete) A civil office; a civil capacity. [16th c.]
    • 1549 March 25 (Gregorian calendar), Hughe Latymer [i.e., Hugh Latimer], Augustine Bernher, compiler, “[27 Sermons Preached by the Ryght Reuerende Father in God and Constant Matir of Iesus Christe, Maister Hugh Latimer, [].] The Second Sermon of Maister Hughe Latimer, which He Preached before King Edward [VI].”, in Certayn Godly Sermons, Made uppon the Lords Prayer, [], London: [] John Day, [], published 1562, →OCLC, folio 36, recto:
      For what an enormity is this in a chriſtian realme to ſerue in a ciuility, hauinge the profyt of a Prouoſtſhip and a Deanrye, and a Perſonage? But I wil tel you what is lyke to come of it. It wil bring the clergy ſhortly into a very ſlauery.