AskDefine | Define citizenship

Dictionary Definition



1 the status of a citizen with rights and duties
2 conduct as a citizen; "award for good citizenship"

User Contributed Dictionary



citizen + -ship


  1. The status of being a citizen.

Related terms


state of being a citizen

Extensive Definition

Citizenship is membership in a society, community, or (originally a city or town but now usually a country) and carries with it rights to political participation; a person having such membership is a citizen. Citizenship status often implies some responsibilities and duties. It is largely coterminous with nationality, although it is possible to have a nationality without being a citizen (i.e., be legally subject to a state and entitled to its protection without having rights of political participation in it); it is also possible to have political rights without being a national of a state. In most nations, a non-citizen is a non-national and called either a foreigner or an alien. Citizenship, which is explained above, is the political rights of an individual within a society. Thus, you can have a citizenship from one country and be a national of another country. One example might be as follows: A Cuban-American might be considered a national of Cuba due to his being born there, but he could also become an American citizen through naturalization. Nationality most often derives from place of birth (i.e. jus soli) and, in some cases, ethnicity (i.e. jus sanguinis). Citizenship derives from a legal relationship with a state. Citizenship can be lost, as in denaturalization, and gained, as in naturalization. Citizenship is when a citizen is legally allowed in a country.
The term Active Citizenship implies working towards the betterment of one's community through economic participation, public service, volunteer work, and other such efforts to improve life for all citizens. In this vein, schools in England provide lessons in citizenship. In Wales the model used is Personal and Social Education. In the Republic of Ireland it is known as C.S.P.E. (Cival,Social and Political Education).

Subnational citizenship

Citizenship most usually relates to membership of the nation state, but the term can also apply at subnational level. Subnational entities may impose requirements, of residency or otherwise, which permit citizens to participate in the political life of that entity, or to enjoy benefits provided by the government of that entity. But in such cases, those eligible are also sometimes seen as "citizens" of the relevant state, province, or region. An example of this is how the fundamental basis of Swiss citizenship is citizenship of an individual commune, from which follows citizenship of a canton and of the Confederation.

Honorary citizenship

Some countries extend "honorary citizenship" to those whom they consider to be especially admirable or worthy of the distinction.
By act of United States Congress and presidential assent, honorary United States citizenship has been awarded to only six individuals.
Honorary Canadian citizenship requires the unanimous approval of Parliament. The only people to ever receive honorary Canadian citizenship are Raoul Wallenberg posthumously in 1985, Nelson Mandela in 2001, the 14th Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso in 2006, and Aung San Suu Kyi in 2007.
In 2002 South Korea awarded honorary citizenship to Dutch football (soccer) coach Guus Hiddink who successfully and unexpectedly took the national team to the semi-finals of the 2002 FIFA World Cup. Honorary citizenship was also awarded to Hines Ward, a black Korean American football player, in 2006 for his efforts to minimize discrimination in Korea against half-Koreans.
American actress Angelina Jolie received an honorary Cambodian citizenship in 2005 due to her humanitarian efforts.
Cricketers Matthew Hayden and Herschelle Gibbs were awarded honorary citizenship of St. Kitts and Nevis in March 2007 due to their record-breaking innings' in the 2007 Cricket World Cup.
In Germany the honorary citizenship is awarded by cities, towns and sometimes federal states. The honorary citizenship ends with the death of the honored, or, in exceptional cases, when it is taken away by the council or parliament of the city, town or state. In the case of war criminals all such honors were taken away by "Article VIII, section II, letter i of the directive 38 of the Allied Control Council for Germany" on October 12, 1946. In some cases, honorary citizenship was taken away from members of the former GDR regime, e.g. Erich Honecker, after the collapse of the GDR in 1989/90.

Historical citizenship

Historically, many states limited citizenship to only a proportion of their population, thereby creating a citizen class with political rights superior to other sections of the population, but equal with each other. The classical example of a limited citizenry was Athens where slaves, women, and resident foreigners (called metics) were excluded from political rights. The Roman Republic forms another example (see Roman citizenship), and, more recently, the nobility of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth had some of the same characteristics.
Polis citizenship The first form of citizenship was based on the way people lived in the ancient Greek times, in small-scale organic communities of the polis. In those days citizenship was not seen as a public matter, separated from the private life of the individual person. The obligations of citizenship were deeply connected into one’s everyday life in the polis. To be truly human, one had to be an active citizen to the community, which Aristotle famously expressed: “To take no part in the running of the community's affairs is to be either a beast or a god!” This form of citizenship was based on obligations of citizens towards the community, rather than rights given to the citizens of the community. This was not a problem because they all had a strong affinity with the polis; their own destiny and the destiny of the community were strongly linked. Also, citizens of the polis saw obligations to the community as an opportunity to be virtuous, it was a source of honour and respect. In Athens, citizens were both ruler and ruled, important political and judicial offices were rotated and all citizens had the right to speak and vote in the political assembly.
However, an important aspect of polis citizenship was exclusivity. Citizenship in ancient Greece and Rome, as well as Medieval cities that practiced polis citizenship, was exclusive and inequality of status was widely accepted. Citizens had a much higher status than non-citizens: Women, slaves or ‘barbarians’. For example, women were seen to be irrational and incapable of political participation (although some, most notably Plato, disagreed). Methods used to determine whether someone could be a citizen or not could be based on wealth (the amount of taxes one paid), political participation, or heritage (both parents had to be born in the polis).
In the Roman Empire, polis citizenship changed form: Citizenship was expanded from small scale communities to the entire empire. Romans realised that granting citizenship to people from all over the empire legitimized Roman rule over conquered areas. They also found that taxes were more easily collected and the need for expensive military power in those areas with citizenship was reduced. Citizenship in the Roman era was no longer a status of political agency; it had been reduced to a judicial safeguard and the expression of rule and law.

School subject

In 2002, Citizenship was introduced as a compulsory subject of the National Curriculum in all state-run schools in the United Kingdom. Some state schools offer an examination in this subject, all state schools have a statutory requirement to report student's progress in Citizenship.
It is taught in the Republic of Ireland as an exam subject for the Junior Certificate. It is known as C.S.P.E.(Cival,Social and Political Education).

Responsibilities of citizenship

The legally enforceable duties of citizenship vary depending on one's country, and may include such items as:
  • paying taxes (although tourists and illegal aliens also pay some taxes such as sales taxes,etc)
  • serving in the country's armed forces when called upon (in the US even illegal immigrants must serve in case of a draft).
  • obeying the criminal laws enacted by one's government, even while abroad.
Purely ethical and moral duties tend to include:
  • demonstrating commitment and loyalty to the democratic political community and state
  • constructively criticizing the conditions of political and civic life
  • participating to improve the quality of political and civic life
  • respecting the rights of others
  • defending one's own rights and the rights of others against those who would abuse them
  • exercising one's rights


citizenship in Bulgarian: Гражданство
citizenship in Czech: Občanství
citizenship in Welsh: Dinasyddiaeth
citizenship in Danish: Statsborgerskab
citizenship in German: Staatsbürgerschaft
citizenship in Spanish: Ciudadano
citizenship in Estonian: Kodanik
citizenship in Esperanto: civito
citizenship in Persian: شهروندی
citizenship in French: Citoyen
citizenship in Croatian: Državljanstvo
citizenship in Indonesian: Kewarganegaraan
citizenship in Italian: Cittadinanza (diritto)
citizenship in Hungarian: Állampolgárság
citizenship in Malay (macrolanguage): Kerakyatan
citizenship in Dutch: burger
citizenship in Japanese: 市民
citizenship in Norwegian: statsborgerskap
citizenship in Uzbek: Fuqarolik
citizenship in Polish: Obywatelstwo
citizenship in Portuguese: Cidadania
citizenship in Vlax Romani: Themutnipen
citizenship in Russian: Гражданин
citizenship in Simple English: Citizenship
citizenship in Slovak: Občianstvo
citizenship in Finnish: Kansalaisuus
citizenship in Swedish: Medborgarskap
citizenship in Turkish: Vatandaşlık
citizenship in Yiddish: בירגערשאפט
citizenship in Chinese: 公民
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