Define: Civil Law

Business, Legal & Accounting Glossary

Definition: Civil Law



What is the dictionary definition of Civil Law?

Dictionary Definition


Civil law is the body of law which outlines the resolutions, remedies and rights for noncriminal disputes. Civil laws are generally “codified” and are continuously updated. In civil law cases, the judge will evaluate the facts of the case and apply the provisions within a framework established by a comprehensive, codified set of laws. The American legal system was highly influenced by the common law traditions brought to the North American colonies from England, although some states’ laws have also been influenced by other countries such as Spain, Mexico and France.

The most common types of civil cases include divorce cases, medical malpractice, personal injury, child custody suits and contract disputes.


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Full Definition of Civil Law


(i) Any legal system in which the full body of law is determined by the apparatus of state and is not derived from the decisions made by the judiciary. Roman law was largely of this sort. The English legal system, in contrast, developed primarily as a system of judicially created ‘common law’.

(ii) A branch of law dealing with the responsibilities of legal persons to one another. In this sense, civil law is opposed to criminal law, and constitutes the branch of law dealing with disputes between individuals and/or organizations, in which compensation may be awarded to the losing party. For instance, if a car crash victim claims damages against the driver for loss or injury sustained in an accident, this will be a civil law case.

Civil law is a portion of the law of the land which is enforced by the Law Courts. As a matter of fact, its law in the strictest sense of the term. It is sometimes called the Municipal law, as opposed to International law.

Law reflects, to a very great extent, the hopes and aspirations of the people, and hence, there cannot be either uncertainty or ignorance of the law. Every law has some pre-declared principles, which are very well known to the citizens at large. It is because of this knowledge that laws find favour with the society. The only difference is that law is something certain; it is more concrete than the abstract customs and habits of the people.

That it is on the whole expedient that Courts of Justice should thus become Courts of law, no one can seriously doubt. Yet, the element of evil involved in the transformation are too obvious and serious ever to right reason: they are in theory the utterance of Justice speaking to men by the mouth of state, but too often, in reality, they fall short of this ideal. Too often they turn judgment to wormwood and make the administration of justice a reproach. Nor is this true merely of the earlier and ruder stages of legal development. At the present day, our law has learnt, in a measure never before attained, to speak the language of sound reason and good sense, but it still retains, in no slight degree, the vices of its youth; nor is it to be expected that at any time we shall altogether escape from the perennial conflict between law and justice.  It is needful, therefore, that the law should prove the ground and justification of its existence.


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Synonyms For Civil Law


Municipal Law


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Definition Sources


Definitions for Civil Law are sourced/syndicated and enhanced from:

  • A Dictionary of Economics (Oxford Quick Reference)
  • Oxford Dictionary Of Accounting
  • Oxford Dictionary Of Business & Management

This glossary post was last updated: 5th April, 2020