c. 1600, "to bring out of barbarism, introduce order and civil organization among, refine and enlighten," from French civiliser, verb from Old French civil (adj.), from Latin civilis "relating to a citizen, relating to public life, befitting a citizen; popular, affable, courteous," alternative adjectival derivative of civis "townsman" (see city). Intransitive meaning "become civilized" is from 1868. Related: Civilized; civilizing.
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