What Does Civility Costs Nothing Mean?

Civility Costs Nothing Meaning

Definition: Being courteous or kind to someone never hurt anyone.

The proverb civility costs nothing means that being polite or kind does not cost a thing. The word cost does not typically refer to a monetary value. Rather, it means that being polite to someone does not require anyone to expend a great amount of effort.

It is just as easy to be nice and courteous as it is to be mean and discourteous.

Origin of Civility Costs Nothing

Meaning of civility costs nothingIt is speculated that this proverb was first used in the 18th century, although there is little information on its first use in print. A similar proverb derives from 15th century French:

  • Courteous words cost little and are worth much.

A few variations of this phrase are,

  • Civility costs nothing, but buys everything.
  • Politeness costs nothing.
  • Courtesy costs nothing.

The full proverb means that, while it does not take much effort, being nice or courteous toward someone can have exponential rewards.

Examples of Civility Costs Nothing

define civility costs nothingThis sample conversation between a young boy and his father demonstrates the correct use of this proverb in context.

Emmett: I’m going to tell my teacher that she’s mean and ugly.

Warren: Don’t do that, son. No matter what you think of someone, you should always be polite to him or her. Civility costs nothing. If you’re rude to her, she might give you detention.

Warren is trying to teach his son that it is always better to be polite toward someone, even if he doesn’t like the person. Voicing how he really feels could get him in trouble. On the other hand, civility costs nothing and being civil certainly won’t get him in trouble with his teacher.

More Examples

  • Seventy-seven years ago, I was introduced to this delightful philosophy by my father, who had the slogan “Civility Costs Nothing” crudely painted on his lunch box. – LA Times


The English proverb civility costs nothing means that it does not take a lot of effort to be kind or courteous to someone.