1704, in a now-obsolete sense "law which makes a criminal process civil," from civil + -ization. Sense of "civilized condition, state of being reclaimed from the rudeness of savage life" first recorded 1772, probably from French civilisation, serving as an opposite to barbarity and a distinct word from civility. From civilize + -ation. Sense of "a particular human society in a civilized condition, considered as a whole over time," is from 1857. Related: Civilizational.
updated on December 13, 2017