civil war

[ siv-uhl wawr ]

  1. a war between political factions or regions within the same country.

Origin of civil war

First recorded in 1540–50 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use civil war in a sentence

  • His 6,000 native auxiliaries (as it proved later on) could not be relied upon in a civil war.

    The Philippine Islands | John Foreman
  • By all the sounded consonants we have—“Inhuman civil war;” the latter shorter, more significant, and more easily remembered.

    Assimilative Memory | Marcus Dwight Larrowe (AKA Prof. A. Loisette)
  • This action aroused Governor Berkeley who immediately considered Bacon a traitor, and a civil war or rebellion resulted.

  • For the popular voice accused him of outrages for which the utmost license of civil war would not furnish a plea.

  • Whatever his resolution may be, it is feared that there will be much disturbance, if not a civil war.

British Dictionary definitions for civil war (1 of 2)

civil war

  1. war between parties, factions, or inhabitants of different regions within the same nation

British Dictionary definitions for Civil War (2 of 2)

Civil War

  1. English history the conflict between Charles I and the Parliamentarians resulting from disputes over their respective prerogatives. Parliament gained decisive victories at Marston Moor in 1644 and Naseby in 1645, and Charles was executed in 1649

  2. US history the war fought from 1861 to 1865 between the North and the South, sparked off by Lincoln's election as president but with deep-rooted political and economic causes, exacerbated by the slavery issue. The advantages of the North in terms of population, finance, and communications brought about the South's eventual surrender at Appomattox

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Cultural definitions for Civil War

Civil War

The war fought in the United States between northern (Union) and southern (Confederate) states from 1861 to 1865, in which the Confederacy sought to establish itself as a separate nation. The Civil War is also known as the War for Southern Independence and as the War between the States. The war grew out of deep-seated differences between the social structure and economy of North and South, most notably over slavery; generations of political maneuvers had been unable to overcome these differences (see Missouri Compromise and Compromise of 1850). The secession of the southern states began in late 1860, after Abraham Lincoln was elected president. The Confederacy was formed in early 1861. The fighting began with the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter. Most of the battles took place in the South, but one extremely crucial episode, the Battle of Gettysburg, was fought in the North. The war ended with the surrender of General Robert E. Lee to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House. (See Battle of Bull Run, Battle of Chancellorsville, Emancipation Proclamation, and Sherman's march to the sea.)

Notes for Civil War

The Civil War has been the most serious test yet of the ability of the United States to remain one nation.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.