I was chatting with a partner and used word "citizenry" to mean "activities of a citizen, such as voting, showing up to community meetings, talking to representatives". Dictionary define it differently, of course:

(the citizens of a place regarded collectively).

I am looking for a word that encompasses activities of citizens that are available to make community a better place. Does it even exist?

PS: my native tongue is Russian, was taught british english in school.


The most common phrases for this concept are "civic duties," "civic responsibilities," or "civic engagement."

To say that something is a civic duty can imply that the actions are mandated by the government--mandatory jury service, taxation or mandatory voting, to name a few examples.

To say that something is a civic responsibility doesn't imply as strongly that the actions are mandatory, but does imply that a good citizen should do those things.

Civic engagement indicates that person is actively engaged in working for the good of the community, whether that's political or not.

Edited to add: This terminology is from an American/American English perspective--see Michael Harvey's excellent comment.

  • 3
    Katy, I maybe should point out that the idea of 'civic duty' being mandated by law is a specifically American one, meaning the responsibilities of citizens to their country - such as obeying the law, paying taxes, in some states keeping the sidewalk outside one's house free from snow - the benefits of the citizen-government relationship being a two-way street. In Britain, the concept seems more like what you call 'civic responsibilities' - voting, not littering, reporting crime, etc. Jury service, if one is selected, is compulsory. Oct 10 '19 at 19:28
  • @MichaelHarvey Very interesting, and good to know! I've put a note in my answer.
    – Katy
    Oct 10 '19 at 22:56
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    I'm from the U.S. and I understand civic duty to be primarily a moral obligation, not necessarily mandated by law. For example, voting is often called a civic duty. Here's a whole academic paper on the American and Canadian conception of civic duty. However, in some contexts, people also limit the phrase to a legal obligation, when that's what they want to talk about.
    – Ben Kovitz
    Oct 11 '19 at 5:59
  • In some countries, such as Australia, apparently voting is obligatory (required by law): is that called a civic duty, or perhaps a cumpulsory obligation? Oct 11 '19 at 10:30
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    I feel that civic duty covers both legal and moral obligations in the UK at least. (So would cover Jury Duty (mandatory - for the countries benefit) and voting (optional but seen as standing up and being counted - also for the countries benefit)). Anything that benefits the country as a whole I guess (even if in a small way, like picking up someone elses litter and putting it in the bin).
    – Smock
    Oct 11 '19 at 10:50

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