Printable Version
Pronunciation: sê-vil-i-ti Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass (No plural)

Meaning: 1. Politeness, courteous behavior. 2. An act of politeness or courtesy.

Notes: This word, of course, derives from the adjective civil, which has two meanings besides "polite, courteous": "between or otherwise related to citizens" and "that aspect of the legal system that deals with disputes or ceremonies not involving crime". This adjective also comes with an adverb, civilly. We are free to use civilish "somewhat civil", if we wish.

In Play: A letter of mine was published last year in the Sunbury Daily Item on this subject: "The U.S. airwaves are filled with the opinions of hate- and fear-mongers, but "Downton Abbey offers a respite of civility amidst all the anger and hatred." One of the problems with the U.S. political system is a dearth of civility. There is no problem anger solves.

Word History: Today's Good Word ultimately evolved from Latin civilis "related to citizens", from civis "citizen, city-dweller", a resident of the urbs "city". Latin inherited this word from PIE kei- "to lie; a bed; homestead". Another Latin word based on this root is civitas "citizenship", which lost its V on the way to French cité "city(-state)", which English borrowed as city. Cemetery is built upon this same root. It emerged in Greek koimeterion "sleeping place, dormitory", from koiman "to put to sleep". In Latin this same word emerged as coemeterium "cemetery", which wiggled its way down to French cimetiere , where it was borrowed by English. (Now we thank Diana Brinsko, the PR Goddess in the Alpha Agora, for valuing civility enough to suggest its name for today's Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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