Civil, Domestic, and Friendly

Taking a break from Easily Confused Words to cover a few words that are usually nice or pleasant: Civil, Domestic, and Friendly.

What’s interesting is, when these three modify certain words, they completely change tone, mood, or personality.

Civil is an adjective with multiple meanings:

  • relating to citizens of a specific city, county, state, or country.
  • well-behaved, polite, meeting the standards of acceptable behavior in a culture: civil discourse

Civility is noun. It means someone behaving with a high degree of politeness, courtesy, and respect.

I think civil as it relates to behavior is used more often than civil as it relates to government or citizens.


Domestic as an adjective with multiple meanings.

  • relating to issues within a city, county or country that are under its jurisdiction or control.
  • Something within a house, apartment or other home dwelling
  • Something relating to a house, apartment or other home dwelling
  • Something relating to a family, romantic partnership, or martial partnership

Domesticate is a verb, it means to tame a wild creature to serve a human needs. Domesticated is an adjective, it means the creature that was tamed.


Friendly is an adverb. It describes a person or a creature with a pleasant personality or temperament. If a dog approaches you wagging its tail, this means it’s not afraid of you, it doesn’t think you’re dangerous, and wants to greet you and stroke its fur.

So, that’s civil, domestic, and friendly. Now let’s look at phrases that dramatically alter their usual meanings.

Domestic violence: Domestic violence is physical harm caused by people against one another, often within a home or residence. Both the type of relationship involved between the people (family members, lovers, married partners, ex-lovers or ex-married partners), and where the violence took place determines whether it is a domestic violence situation. Domestic violence can be recurring, it can escalate, or randomly erupt into deadly behavior without prior incident. Domestic violence can extend to family members, friends, or roommates. The following link at Safe Harbor has statistics on domestic violence in the US.

Domestic terrorism: Domestic terrorism is a violent, deadly act performed by a citizen or resident against other citizens or residents of their shared country. Domestic terrorism can happen as a result of one person’s acts, a group’s acts, or one person claiming they’re acting on behalf of a group or a ideology.

If there are common themes among domestic terrorist acts, it’s often committed by persons who think killing and/or wounding others is a way to inspire fear and intimidation in the general public or a sector of the public, and to give their political agenda attention as a result. Examples of domestic terrorism include using guns, fire or explosives and targeting public spaces, government, or religious buildings. Assassinating an elected leader, a monarch, or monarch’s family is murder, but it’s also done for domestic terrorism or revolution-inspired reasons. When the Archduke was killed in Sarajevo in 1914 by a Gavrilo Princip, a member of the Black Hand, it was intended to provoke Austro-Hungarian empire leadership and their allies to react. And react they did, World War I started not long after this event.

Domestic as it modifies terrorism means “on shared territory, committed between parties of a common nation.” Examples of domestic terrorist groups in the United States can be found here. And it certainly doesn’t just happen just in the US. Had Guy Fawkes succeeded in blowing up the English Parliament in 1605, we would think of him as a domestic terrorist, instead of a thwarted, unsuccessful domestic terrorist. V in the V for Vendetta graphic novel (movie was in 2005) is a domestic terrorist in a Fascist Oppressive England.

Civil War: A civil war takes place within a country among rival parties or factions. The US fought a civil war from 1861-1865, Spain had a civil war between 1936-1939, the English fought a civil war from 1642-1652. France also had a number of internal conflicts as well, but for some reason, in English, these are more commonly called revolutions, not civil wars. [If you know a war historian with a blog who might know what’s a revolution versus a civil war, feel free to ping me their website.]

There are civil wars being fought today in 2015, including Yemen and many countries on the African continent.

Friendly fire: Friendly fire means being wounded or killed by a fellow soldier. It can happen either by accident, or even worse, on purpose. General Stonewall Jackson was accidentally killed by his own men during the US Civil War. For a list of other friendly fire incidents in history from all over the globe, click here.

Domestic violence, domestic terrorism, civil war, and friendly fire, four terms that are not good things.

It’s common in human nature to fear what’s different: strangers, or people who are different from ourselves. They may be different in one way, or multiple ways: different skin tone, different hair, different religious beliefs, different clothes, different political beliefs.

These four terms are evidence that just because something is familiar or native, it doesn’t mean that nothing can ever go wrong between ourselves and those like us, and the persons in relationships with us. Relationships are actually full of conflict the longer they last. How we handle conflict says a lot about us. Communication, listening, and being willing to change are always key.

I’d like to add that those we don’t know yet, or who are different from us, aren’t bad people, or out to do us harm as much our primal instincts or any hearsay would have us believe.

Life is full of paradoxes, or contradictions, that way.


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