Skip Nav


Related Words

❶Any organization is a complex social system and a civilization is a large organization.

Word story

Video: pronunciation of 'civilization'

Translation of civilization for Arabic speakers Britannica. Encyclopedia article about civilization. What made you want to look up civilization?

Please tell us where you read or heard it including the quote, if possible. Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free! Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way. You might've seen this one before.

Paraphrasing in a cut-and-paste world. Some of our favourite British words. The story of an imaginary word that managed to sneak past our editors and enter the dictionary.

How we chose 'feminism'. How to use a word that literally drives some people nuts. The awkward case of 'his or her'. Test your visual vocabulary with our question challenge! Explore the year a word first appeared. Definition of civilization 1 a: See civilization defined for English-language learners See civilization defined for kids. He said that the world crisis was from humanity losing the ethical idea of civilization, "the sum total of all progress made by man in every sphere of action and from every point of view in so far as the progress helps towards the spiritual perfecting of individuals as the progress of all progress".

Adjectives like "civility" developed in the midth century. The abstract noun "civilization", meaning "civilized condition", came in the s, again from French. The first known use in French is in , by Victor Riqueti, marquis de Mirabeau , and the first use in English is attributed to Adam Ferguson , who in his Essay on the History of Civil Society wrote, "Not only the individual advances from infancy to manhood, but the species itself from rudeness to civilisation".

In the late s and early s, during the French Revolution , "civilization" was used in the singular , never in the plural, and meant the progress of humanity as a whole. This is still the case in French.

Already in the 18th century, civilization was not always seen as an improvement. One historically important distinction between culture and civilization is from the writings of Rousseau , particularly his work about education, Emile. Here, civilization, being more rational and socially driven, is not fully in accord with human nature , and "human wholeness is achievable only through the recovery of or approximation to an original prediscursive or prerational natural unity" see noble savage.

From this, a new approach was developed, especially in Germany, first by Johann Gottfried Herder , and later by philosophers such as Kierkegaard and Nietzsche. This sees cultures as natural organisms, not defined by "conscious, rational, deliberative acts", but a kind of pre-rational "folk spirit".

Civilization, in contrast, though more rational and more successful in material progress, is unnatural and leads to "vices of social life" such as guile, hypocrisy, envy and avarice.

Social scientists such as V. Gordon Childe have named a number of traits that distinguish a civilization from other kinds of society.

Andrew Nikiforuk argues that "civilizations relied on shackled human muscle. It took the energy of slaves to plant crops, clothe emperors, and build cities" and considers slavery to be a common feature of pre-modern civilizations. All civilizations have depended on agriculture for subsistence, with the possible exception of some early civilizations in Peru which may have depended upon maritime resources.

It is possible but more difficult to accumulate horticultural production, and so civilizations based on horticultural gardening have been very rare. A surplus of food permits some people to do things besides produce food for a living: A surplus of food results in a division of labour and a more diverse range of human activity, a defining trait of civilizations.

However, in some places hunter-gatherers have had access to food surpluses, such as among some of the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest and perhaps during the Mesolithic Natufian culture.

It is possible that food surpluses and relatively large scale social organization and division of labour predates plant and animal domestication. Civilizations have distinctly different settlement patterns from other societies.

The word "civilization" is sometimes simply defined as "' living in cities '". Compared with other societies, civilizations have a more complex political structure, namely the state. The ruling class , normally concentrated in the cities, has control over much of the surplus and exercises its will through the actions of a government or bureaucracy.

Morton Fried , a conflict theorist and Elman Service , an integration theorist, have classified human cultures based on political systems and social inequality.

This system of classification contains four categories [28]. Economically, civilizations display more complex patterns of ownership and exchange than less organized societies. Living in one place allows people to accumulate more personal possessions than nomadic people. Some people also acquire landed property , or private ownership of the land. Because a percentage of people in civilizations do not grow their own food, they must trade their goods and services for food in a market system, or receive food through the levy of tribute , redistributive taxation , tariffs or tithes from the food producing segment of the population.

Early human cultures functioned through a gift economy supplemented by limited barter systems. By the early Iron Age , contemporary civilizations developed money as a medium of exchange for increasingly complex transactions. In a village, the potter makes a pot for the brewer and the brewer compensates the potter by giving him a certain amount of beer.

In a city, the potter may need a new roof, the roofer may need new shoes, the cobbler may need new horseshoes, the blacksmith may need a new coat and the tanner may need a new pot. These people may not be personally acquainted with one another and their needs may not occur all at the same time.

A monetary system is a way of organizing these obligations to ensure that they are fulfilled. From the days of the earliest monetarized civilizations, monopolistic controls of monetary systems have benefited the social and political elites. Writing , developed first by people in Sumer , is considered a hallmark of civilization and "appears to accompany the rise of complex administrative bureaucracies or the conquest state". Like money, writing was necessitated by the size of the population of a city and the complexity of its commerce among people who are not all personally acquainted with each other.

However, writing is not always necessary for civilization, as shown the Inca civilization of the Andes, which did not use writing at all except from a complex recording system consisting of cords and nodes instead: Aided by their division of labour and central government planning, civilizations have developed many other diverse cultural traits.

These include organized religion , development in the arts , and countless new advances in science and technology. Through history, successful civilizations have spread, taking over more and more territory, and assimilating more and more previously-uncivilized people. Nevertheless, some tribes or people remain uncivilized even to this day. These cultures are called by some " primitive ", a term that is regarded by others as pejorative. Specifically, as all of today's cultures are contemporaries, today's so-called primitive cultures are in no way antecedent to those we consider civilized.

Anthropologists today use the term " non-literate " to describe these peoples. Civilization has been spread by colonization , invasion , religious conversion , the extension of bureaucratic control and trade , and by introducing agriculture and writing to non-literate peoples. Some non-civilized people may willingly adapt to civilized behaviour. But civilization is also spread by the technical, material and social dominance that civilization engenders.

Assessments of what level of civilization a polity has reached are based on comparisons of the relative importance of agricultural as opposed to trade or manufacturing capacities, the territorial extensions of its power, the complexity of its division of labour , and the carrying capacity of its urban centres. Secondary elements include a developed transportation system, writing, standardized measurement, currency, contractual and tort -based legal systems, art, architecture, mathematics, scientific understanding, metallurgy , political structures and organized religion.

Traditionally, polities that managed to achieve notable military, ideological and economic power defined themselves as "civilized" as opposed to other societies or human groupings outside their sphere of influence—calling the latter barbarians , savages , and primitives.

In a modern-day context, "civilized people" have been contrasted with indigenous people or tribal societies. Every society, civilization or not, has a specific set of ideas and customs, and a certain set of manufactures and arts that make it unique.

Civilizations tend to develop intricate cultures, including a state -based decision making apparatus, a literature , professional art , architecture , organized religion and complex customs of education , coercion and control associated with maintaining the elite. The intricate culture associated with civilization has a tendency to spread to and influence other cultures, sometimes assimilating them into the civilization a classic example being Chinese civilization and its influence on nearby civilizations such as Korea , Japan and Vietnam.

Many civilizations are actually large cultural spheres containing many nations and regions. The civilization in which someone lives is that person's broadest cultural identity.

The type of culture and society developed by a particular nation or region or in a particular epoch: Mayan civilization; the civilization of ancient Rome. Modern society with its conveniences: Sociology a human society that has highly developed material and spiritual resources and a complex cultural, political, and legal organization; an advanced state in social development.

Switch to new thesaurus. Islam , Muslimism - the civilization of Muslims collectively which is governed by the Muslim religion; "Islam is predominant in northern Africa, the Middle East, Pakistan, and Indonesia". Aegean civilisation , Aegean civilization , Aegean culture - the prehistoric civilization on the islands in the Aegean sea and the surrounding countries; "by BC the entire Aegean had adopted this style of pottery".

Helladic civilisation , Helladic civilization , Helladic culture - the bronze-age culture of mainland Greece that flourished BC. Indus civilization - the bronze-age culture of the Indus valley that flourished from about BC. Minoan civilisation , Minoan civilization , Minoan culture - the bronze-age culture of Crete that flourished BC.

Example sentences containing 'civilization'

Main Topics

Privacy Policy

Civilization definition is - a relatively high level of cultural and technological development; specifically: the stage of cultural development at which writing and the keeping of written records is attained. How to use civilization in a sentence.

Privacy FAQs

The meaning of the term civilization has changed several times during its history, and even today it is used in several ways. It is commonly used to describe human societies "with a high level of cultural and technological development", as opposed to what many consider to be less "advanced" societies.

About Our Ads

Civilization entered the English language in the midth century with the meaning “the act or process of bringing out of a savage or uneducated state.” In this preimperialistic age of exploration, it was popular to view people from less-developed lands as barbaric and in great need of cultural edification. civilization - a society in an advanced state of social development (e.g., with complex legal and political and religious organizations); "the people slowly progressed from barbarism to civilization" civilisation.

Cookie Info

Definition of civilization - the stage of human social development and organization which is considered most advanced. A civilization is a human society with its own social organization and culture. The ancient civilizations of Central and Latin America were founded upon corn. It seemed to him that western civilization was in grave economic and cultural danger.