We encounter these terms frequently in everyday readings. Although they have almost the same meanings but there exist intricate differences. Please explain with some examples the differences and similarities between these phrases.

  • Is there a particular example that you are finding confusing\?
    – James K
    Nov 1, 2017 at 7:31
  • Is this for a homework assignment? if so please explain what have you researched so far and what are remaining un-clarities
    – user4012
    Nov 1, 2017 at 10:35
  • 3
    Also please give a country tag, such as USA, as this should be restricted to a single country if it is to be answerable.
    – James K
    Nov 1, 2017 at 10:51
  • No, it's not a homework assignment. You may explain it in the context of USA or any other nation, but just mention the specific context.
    – Ajay Singh
    Nov 1, 2017 at 18:37

3 Answers 3


http://civilrights.findlaw.com/civil-rights-overview/civil-rights-vs-civil-liberties.html covers the difference between Civil Rights and Civil Liberties in detail.

In short (in US law):

                 | Civil Liberties              | Civil Rights 
Definition       | basic rights and freedoms    | basic right to be free from
                 | that are guaranteed to all   | unequal treatment based on
                 |                              | protected characteristics 
Law Origin in US | Bill of Rights, Constitution,| federal legislation
                 | interpretation by L or J     |
Example          | Free speech. Assembly.       | Right to be promoted 
                 | Bear arms. Legal councel     | regardless of gender/race
Burden to uphold | Mostly on government         | Government, businesses, individuals

"Freedoms" in its original definition basically just means to be free from unreasonable external constraints on action in a specific domain. Many of civil liberties that are enumerated in USA happen to be freedoms.

  • You have mentioned Civil Liberties as Right to be free from Unequal treatment, but unequal treatment by whom?
    – Ajay Singh
    Nov 1, 2017 at 18:40
  • 1
    @AjayChoudhary - that's the last row (burden to uphold).
    – user4012
    Nov 1, 2017 at 19:25
  • I know you didn't write it but... "Right to be promoted regardless of gender/race" There is no right to be promoted. It is a horrible example from them. Nov 1, 2017 at 22:39
  • 2
    @SoylentGray - it's rather a horrible wording. "Right to not have one's gender/race affect one's promotion prospects" is more accurate
    – user4012
    Nov 2, 2017 at 2:01
  • 2
    @user4012 I aim to pedant :) Nov 2, 2017 at 13:33

Civil rights are things that are guaranteed to everyone equally. These are things that the government is prohibited from taking away or reducing. Most of these are specified in the Bill of rights. Some are more specific like the right to free speech, and protections against self incrimination.

Civil Liberties are things that are available to everyone, but may be regulated by the government and/or protected by the government. A good example is the use of public road ways, libraries, and wireless phone service.

A freedom is something that is not regulated, facilitated, nor prohibited by the government. Some freedoms are also civil rights. Some freedoms are not available to everyone equally though. That is the difference between a freedom, and a civil right. A civil right is expressly protected from intrusion by the government. A freedom is anything that is allowed through perhaps not protected explicitly, like the right to not be live, breathe, eat, or drink.


Here is the way to understand how these phrases are used in their original context. Freedom is no restraint and self rule or anarchy. That can only exist if no government exists. Meaning the man with the biggest stick rules.(if I need to quote that, you have no understanding of western civilization and stop) But the ruler prevents individual liberty.

Liberty is the principal of self governance and private property. The founding fathers decided, 'to form a MORE perfect Union," that all men shall have certain inalienable rights. To do this they created a central government to neutralize the stick. This exempts complete freedoms of an kind. The Bill of Rights is limited freedom and liberty the government protects for each individual.

Private ownership grants owners the right to protect their property. Over the years of discrimination, the Supreme Court has ruled that businesses are in the public domain. Only if someone's right threatens your business or its value, can you deny them rights. The government is public. They cannot infringe on rights without due process.

Civil action that leads to a right or liberty is a civil one. The difference, civil liberties apply to business. Black men became men through an amendment. That is a civil right.

And before anyone says anything, the right and free exercise thereof. The right has to exist before the freedom. Freedoms have limitations, making it assinine to call it a freedom. The Constitution is not taught well, up to law school anyways. Which I would not know. Until Liberty is restored tyranny will reign. But the original intent is what it is.

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