verb (used with object), civ·i·lized, civ·i·liz·ing.
- to bring out of a savage, uneducated, or rude state; make civil; elevate in social and private life; enlighten; refine: Rome civilized the barbarians.
- to bring out of savagery or barbarism into a state characteristic of civilization
- to refine, educate, or enlighten
c.1600, “to bring out of barbarism,” 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” (see civil). Meaning “become civilized” is from 1868. Related: Civilized; civilizing.