Civic Duty Meaning (Complete Overview: All You Need To Know)

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Civic Duty Meaning

Civic duty, also referred to as civil responsibility, refers to the duties that we have as citizens living in society.

According to Vocabulary.com, the meaning of civic duty is:

The responsibilities of a citizen
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This definition is quite simple where it is clearly put that “civic duty” refers to the set of responsibilities we have as citizens living in society.

The underlying meaning of civic duty is that every citizen has a “responsibility” or an “obligation” towards other members of society in order to benefit from the rights, freedoms, and protections afforded to it by society.

In other words, for a person to be entitled to something in society, he or she must offer something to society in return.

To live in the United States, American citizens share certain key values and principles such as the ability to live free, be treated equally, have the right to vote, and so on.

These common liberties and freedoms are rights that we enjoy as citizens and in return we must respect our civil duty embodied by the same principles.

To better understand the “meaning of civic duty”, let’s break down the phrase into its components: “civic” and “duty”.

Civic Meaning

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, civic is defined as:

Of or relating to a citizen, a city, citizenship, or community affairs
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In other words, the meaning of “civic” can be summed up as:

  • It’s related to individuals 
  • As citizens
  • Living in community 

Duty Meaning

What does “duty” mean?

According to Dictionary.com, duty is defined as:

Something that one is expected or required to do by moral or legal obligation.
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In other words, duty is when:

  • You have a moral obligation 
  • Perhaps a legal obligation 
  • Towards another or group of people 

Civic Duty Definition

What does “civic duty” mean?

What is the definition of civic duty?

According to US Legal, civic duty means:

Civic duties refer to the responsibilities of citizens. Often rights enjoyed by citizens also implies corresponding responsibilities.
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As you can see from this definition, your rights as a person living in society are balanced by a corresponding obligation (or duty) to be a good citizen.

Generally speaking, a person’s civic duties can include things like:

  • Participating in government affairs
  • Going to church 
  • Acting as a volunteer 
  • Giving to society 
  • Advocating for various causes

The term “civic duty” and “civic responsibility” substantively mean the same thing although they may be used in different situations.

The notions of duty and responsibility refer to our obligation to do certain things or act in a certain way as responsible members of society.

Types of Civic Duty

What are some examples of civic duty so we can better understand its meaning?

Jury Duty

One of the most notable examples of civic duty in the United States is to act as a jury member when called upon by the judicial system (this is referred to as jury duty).

In essence, when you are called to act as a juror, you are essentially providing support to the legal system in deciding whether the plaintiff’s action against the defendant is justified or not.

The objective here is to have actual members of society (jurors) hear the case presented by the plaintiff and together decide as to the verdict.

If you think about it, a jury is composed of “citizens” judging another citizen as opposed to the “government” deciding for the people. 

In a sense, you are protected from the abuse of government and governmental power when you act as a juror (as part of your civic duty) and be judged by a set of jurors (who are also members of society).

Voting 

One way a person can exercise his or her civic duty is by voting for public officials.

Although it is not mandatory for a person to vote, exercising your right to vote allows you to participate in democracy and the democratic system you live in.

By voting for the candidate or public official of your choice, you are voting for a set of values and principles that you wish to see in society as advocated by the person you are voting for.

The process of voting allows you to vote for changes that you’d like to see take place in society, changes in the laws, changes in the services offered by the government, and so on.

Obey The Law

From a legal perspective, the most important duty that we have as members of society is to obey the law.

The laws are designed in such a way as to help us live together in a safe and peaceful manner.

There are many types of laws out there governing different aspects of our lives and managed by different levels of government.

When you fail to respect the law, there may be legal consequences that you may suffer such as having to pay a penalty, a fine, going to jail or prison, be forced to do community service, be put on probation, and so on.

In the United States, depending on the nature of the law that you have violated, the penalties and consequences can vary from something minor to something as serious as capital punishment.

Payment of Taxes

Another important duty we have as citizens living in society is to pay our taxes.

The payment of taxes to the government allows them to build the necessary infrastructure we use to live in our communities.

There are many ways you pay taxes such as on your income, payroll tax deductions, sales taxes, real estate taxes, excise tax, and more.

The taxes you pay allows the government to build roads, bridges, libraries, fund schools, create Medicare programs, offer food stamps, build parks, and provide for many other services we enjoy as citizens.

Selective Service System

In the United States, the Selective Service System is a federal agency allowing the government to find the number of men needed to serve in the armed forces.

Any male US citizen or male noncitizen over the age of 18 and below 25 must register with the Selective Service under penalty of a hefty fine or even a prison sentence.

By registering with the Selective Service, as needed, the agency may call upon the registered men to serve with the armed forces if there’s a war that breaks out or when there’s a national emergency.

When you register with the Selective Service, you can benefit from certain programs offered by the federal government such as student loans, job training, or other programs that you will not otherwise be eligible to receive.

Civil Duty Meaning Takeaways 

There you have it folks!

So, what is the meaning of civil duties?

Living as a responsible citizen in the United States or in any country means that you have “rights” but you also have “duties”.

There are certain types of duties that are widely-known and are exhibited in different countries based on different legal systems, such as:

  • Obeying the law
  • Serving on a jury 
  • Paying taxes
  • Voting 

The notion of civic duty is foundationally based on the principle that we each owe allegiance to our government and our government in return protects us.

By extension, civic duty means that we owe certain obligations to other members of society in exchange for being able to live in a society where we are afforded rights, liberties, and freedoms.

You can exercise your civic duty by adopting a set of conduct or behavior promoting the common good, such as:

  • Participating in solving social problems
  • Respecting those with opposing views
  • Recognizing everyone as equal members of society 
  • Finding ways to negotiate your differences with others 
  • Help government and social initiatives 
  • Support causes that are important to you 
  • Participate in public policy decisions 
  • Advocate for values that you’d like to see in society 
  • Vote when you are required to 

As you can see, in addition to “legal obligations” in discharging your duties civic, you can also act in ways that are morally right and help society as a whole.

We refer to that as civic engagement or civil participation.

Let’s look at a summary of our findings.

Civic Responsibility Meaning

  • A civic duty consists of a set of behaviors, actions, conduct, or attitude expected of a responsible and active member of society 
  • As an active member of society, you expect to have your rights upheld, your voice heard, to have certain privileges, but in return, you must give to society by discharging your social duties such as voting, volunteering, paying taxes, and so on
  • The objective of exercising your civic duty is to live as an active citizen, be committed to the welfare and well-being of others in society, and strive for the common good
Active duty 
Branch of government 
Breach of fiduciary duty 
Civic courage 
Civic duty 
Civic education 
Civic engagement 
Civic leader 
Civic pride
Civil action 
Constitutional rights 
Criminal charge
Federal government
Fiduciary duty
Jury duty 
Legal obligation 
Power of attorney 
Trial by jury 
Trial 
Voire dire
Voting rights
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Civil disobedience 
Civil rights lawyer 
Civil rights 
Civil society 
Community service 
Concurrent powers 
Duty of care 
Egregious act 
Elastic clause
Election day 
Executive branch 
Freedom of speech 
Incidental damages
Inherent powers 
Judicial branch 
Legislative branch 
Punitive damages 
Right to vote
Selective service 
Sovereign power 
Statutory obligations 
Tax obligations
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