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civil disobedience

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noun
  1. the refusal to obey certain laws or governmental demands for the purpose of influencing legislation or government policy, characterized by the employment of such nonviolent techniques as boycotting, picketing, and nonpayment of taxes.Compare noncooperation(def 2), passive resistance.
  2. (initial capital letters, italics) an essay (1848) by Thoreau.
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Origin of civil disobedience

First recorded in 1865–70
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for civil disobedience

civil disobedience

noun
  1. a refusal to obey laws, pay taxes, etc: a nonviolent means of protesting or of attempting to achieve political goals
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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

Word Origin and History for civil disobedience

n.

coined 1866 by Thoreau as title of an essay originally published (1849) as "Resistance to Civil Government."

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

civil disobedience in Culture

“Civil Disobedience”

(1849) An essay by Henry David Thoreau. It contains his famous statement “That government is best which governs least,” and asserts that people's obligations to their own conscience take precedence over their obligations to their government. Thoreau also argues that if, in following their conscience, people find it necessary to break the laws of the state, they should be prepared to pay penalties, including imprisonment.

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Note

Thoreau himself went to jail for refusing to pay a tax to support the Mexican War.

civil disobedience

The refusal to obey a law out of a belief that the law is morally wrong.

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Note

In the nineteenth century, the American author Henry David Thoreau wrote “Civil Disobedience,” an important essay justifying such action.

Note

In the twentieth century, civil disobedience was exercised by Mahatma Gandhi in the struggle for independence in India. Civil disobedience, sometimes called nonviolent resistance or passive resistance, was also practiced by some members of the civil rights movement in the United States, notably Martin Luther King, Jr., to challenge segregation of public facilities; a common tactic of these civil rights supporters was the sit-in. King defended the use of civil disobedience in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”
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.