Definition Of Citizen Essay

559 words - 2 pages

Definition of Citizen

The context in which words are used may change in everyday conversation, but ultimately the foundation of the definition remains constant. The number one definition generally changes due to advancement in society. Consider the word "citizen." The meaning of the word citizen has changed since 1913, but the definition that is used today was also used back then.

There are some commonalities between The Webster Dictionary, published in 1913 and The Oxford English Dictionary, as well as, The American Heritage College Dictionary. Each of the dictionaries all state that a citizen is an inhabitant of a city or a particular place and a person that has voting rights.  In these cases the definition of the word has not changed during the past eighty years. From these definitions, citizen is still used in the same fashion today as it was in the earlier 1900's.

Although each of the dictionaries have similar primary definitions, there are differences in the secondary definitions. The most evident difference appears when The Webster Dictionary is compared to the other two dictionaries. All three dictionaries consider a citizen as someone who can vote. But the number one definition in the 1913 dictionary states, a citizen is "One who enjoys the freedom and privileges of a city; a freeman of a city..." In 1913, the people with the privileges were those who could vote. Under this definition, African Americans and women were not included. African Americans were not included until the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Women were included in 1918.  Therefore a citizen was, for the most part, a white male. Since the Civil Rights Movement and Women's Suffrage the definition has changed significantly.  In the two more recent dictionaries...

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