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Civil vs. Civic: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Updated on October 10, 2023
The common mistake is spelling "Civic" as "Civil." "Civic" relates to a city or citizens.

Key Differences

Civil pertains largely to matters related to the citizens or to the civilization at large, which encapsulates matters of general social concern, policies, and inter-citizen relations. Civic, although somewhat related, particularly refers to matters that pertain to a city or town, often emphasizing local governance, institutions, or activities within a particular municipal framework.
Civil tends to encompass a broader array of contexts, including referring to things like civil rights, which pertain to the rights of citizens, or civil duties, which relate to the duties of a citizen towards their society. Civic, meanwhile, zeroes in more specifically towards aspects like civic responsibility, implying the responsibilities or duties of a citizen primarily towards their local municipal entity.
In a legal context, Civil often pertains to civil law, focusing on disputes between private citizens or entities. It isn’t particularly localized and can imply any dispute that is non-criminal, such as contract issues or personal injury cases. In contrast, Civic law isn’t a widely recognized term, as civic generally does not extend into legal classification, but it often pops up in discussions about local ordinances and laws.
Civil discussions or dialogues refer to interactions that are polite, respecting the divergence of opinions, and maintaining a tranquility in discourse. Civic discussions, on the other hand, would denote discussions primarily related to issues concerning a city or town, such as local governance, regulations, or community projects.
In terms of engineering or architecture, Civil engineering encompasses designing and building infrastructure such as roads, bridges, and water supply in both urban and non-urban settings. Civic engineering, while not a standardized term, would theoretically pertain more specifically to engineering works within the confines of a city or municipality.

Comparison Chart

Basic Definition

Pertaining to citizens and their concerns
Relating to a city, town, and its citizens


Tends to have a broader application
More specific, usually localized to a town/city

Legal Context

Often relates to non-criminal law
Rarely used in a legal context

Social Interaction

Can imply politeness in discourse
Not commonly used in this context

In Engineering

Refers to a broad field of engineering
Not a standardized term in engineering

Civil and Civic Definitions


Polite and courteous.
Even in disagreement, they maintained a civil conversation.


Relating to the responsibilities of citizens.
Civic duty calls for active participation in democracy.


Related to civil rights.
The civil rights movement altered history.


Pertaining to a city or town.
Civic leadership impacts local communities.


Relating to ordinary citizens and their concerns.
Civil unrest can lead to societal change.


Involving the affairs of a community.
She is deeply involved in civic activities.


Concerned with the general wellbeing of citizens.
Civil engineers ensure safe and efficient transportation systems.


Associated with local self-government.
Civic authorities decided to build a new park.


Of, relating to, or befitting a citizen or citizens
Civil duties.


Related to citizenship.
They were awarded for their exemplary civic behavior.


Of or relating to citizens and their interrelations with one another or with the state
Government agencies concerned with civil affairs.


Of, relating to, or belonging to a city, a citizen, or citizenship; municipal or civil.


Of ordinary citizens or ordinary community life as distinguished from the military or the ecclesiastical
Married in a civil ceremony at city hall.


Of, relating to, or belonging to a city, a citizen, or citizenship; municipal or civil.
Thousands of people came to the Civic Center to show off their civic pride.


Sufficiently observing or befitting accepted social usages; polite
A civil reply.


Of or relating to the citizen, or of good citizenship and its rights and duties.
Civic duty


Being in accordance with or denoting legally recognized divisions of time
A civil year.


Relating to, or derived from, a city or citizen; relating to man as a member of society, or to civil affairs.


(Law) Relating to the rights of private individuals and legal proceedings concerning these rights as distinguished from criminal, military, or international regulations or proceedings.


Of or relating or belonging to a city;
Civic center
Civic problems


(uncomparable) Having to do with people and government office as opposed to the military or religion.
She went into civil service because she wanted to help the people.


Of or relating to or befitting citizens as individuals;
Civil rights
Civil liberty
Civic duties
Civic pride


(comparable) Behaving in a reasonable or polite manner.
It was very civil of him to stop the argument.


(archaic) In a peaceful and well-ordered state.


(legal) Relating to private relations among citizens, as opposed to criminal matters.
A civil case




Pertaining to a city or state, or to a citizen in his relations to his fellow citizens or to the state; within the city or state.


Subject to government; reduced to order; civilized; not barbarous; - said of the community.
England was very rude and barbarous; for it is but even the other day since England grew civil.


Performing the duties of a citizen; obedient to government; - said of an individual.
Civil men come nearer the saints of God than others; they come within a step or two of heaven.


Having the manners of one dwelling in a city, as opposed to those of savages or rustics; polite; courteous; complaisant; affable.


Pertaining to civic life and affairs, in distinction from military, ecclesiastical, or official state.


Relating to rights and remedies sought by action or suit distinct from criminal proceedings.


Applying to ordinary citizens;
Civil law
Civil authorities


Not rude; marked by satisfactory (or especially minimal) adherence to social usages and sufficient but not noteworthy consideration for others;
Even if he didn't like them he should have been civil


Of or occurring within the state or between or among citizens of the state;
Civil affairs
Civil strife
Civil disobediece
Civil branches of government


Of or relating to or befitting citizens as individuals;
Civil rights
Civil liberty
Civic duties
Civic pride


(of divisions of time) legally recognized in ordinary affairs of life;
The civil calendar
A civil day begins at mean midnight


Of or in a condition of social order;
Civil peoples


Pertaining to civil law.
A civil lawsuit was filed against the company.


What does "civic duty" imply?

"Civic duty" refers to a citizen’s responsibilities and roles within their local city or community.

Can "civil" have legal connotations?

Yes, "civil" can refer to matters of civil law, which involve disputes between citizens or organizations.

Can "civil" refer to politeness in discourse?

Yes, "civil" can refer to politeness or courtesy in interactions and discourse.

How does "civil" relate to society?

"Civil" relates to citizens and their concerns within a society or civilization.

How is "civic" used in the context of activities?

"Civic" activities refer to actions undertaken by citizens in relation to their town or city, like attending town hall meetings or participating in local governance.

How does "civil engineering" relate to society?

"Civil engineering" involves designing and building infrastructure (like roads, bridges, and utilities) for society.

What is "civic education"?

"Civic education" involves teaching citizens about their rights, duties, and roles within their city or community.

What does "civil rights" mean?

"Civil rights" refer to the rights of citizens to political and social freedom and equality.

Can "civil" refer to non-military matters?

Yes, "civil" can refer to non-military matters, distinguishing civil life from military life.

What does "civic" specifically relate to?

"Civic" pertains to matters involving a city or town and the activities of its citizens.

Does "civil" relate to internal affairs of a country?

Yes, "civil" can pertain to the internal affairs or concerns of the citizens of a country.

What could "civic responsibility" involve?

"Civic responsibility" involves duties like voting, volunteering, and participating in activities that benefit the local community.

What might "civic leadership" involve?

"Civic leadership" involves leading or governing at a local, city level, often focusing on community development and local governance.

Does "civil" imply adherence to the norms of society?

Yes, being "civil" often implies behaving according to societal norms of politeness and respect.

Is "civic pride" related to one’s town or city?

Yes, "civic pride" refers to pride in one’s town or city and its achievements and symbols.

Can "civil" be used to refer to civilian as opposed to religious matters?

Yes, "civil" can distinguish civilian matters from religious ones, like "civil marriage."

What does "civic body" refer to?

A "civic body" refers to an organization or entity that is involved in managing the local affairs of a city or town.

What does "civic center" refer to?

A "civic center" typically refers to a prominent land area within a city that hosts government buildings or public events.

Can "civil" be used in the context of domestic or internal unrest?

Yes, "civil" can be used in contexts like "civil war" or "civil unrest," referring to conflict within a country.

What is "civic engagement"?

"Civic engagement" refers to citizens actively participating in the public life of their community, usually with the aim to improve conditions for others or to help shape the community's future.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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