The Lexington Minuteman, a statue commemorating Captain John Parker, a commander of Massachusetts militia forces, during the American Revolutionary War

A militia ə/[1] is generally an army or some other fighting organization of non-professional soldiers, citizens of a nation, or subjects of a state, who can be called upon for military service during a time of need, as opposed to a professional force of regular, full-time military personnel, or historically, members of a warrior nobility class (e.g., knights or samurai). Generally unable to hold ground against regular forces, it is common for militias to be used for aiding regular troops by skirmishing, holding fortifications, or irregular warfare, instead of being used in offensive campaigns by themselves. Militia are often limited by local civilian laws to serve only in their home region, and to serve only for a limited time; this further reduces their use in long military campaigns.

With the emergence of professional forces (in the form of mercenaries whose livelihood was military service) during the Renaissance, Western European militias wilted; later however, they would be revived as part of Florentine civic humanism, which held that professional militaries were a result of corruption, and admired the Roman model.[2] The civic humanist ideal of the militia was spread through Europe by the writings of Niccolò Machiavelli (According to Hörnqvist, The Prince, ch. 12 and 13, Discourses on Livy, and The Art of War.)

Beginning in the late 20th century, some militias (in particular officially recognized and sanctioned militias of a government) act as professional forces, while still being "part-time" or "on-call" organizations. For instance, the members of some U.S. Army National Guard units are considered professional soldiers, as they are trained to maintain the same standards as their "full-time" (active duty) counterparts.[citation needed]

Militias thus can be military or paramilitary, depending on the instance. Some of the contexts in which the term "militia" is used include:

  • Forces engaged in defense activity or service, to protect a community, its territory, property, and laws.[3]
  • The entire able-bodied population of a community, town, county, or state, available to be called to arms.
    • A subset of these who may be legally penalized for failing to respond to a call-up.
    • A subset of these who actually respond to a call-up, regardless of legal obligation.
  • A private, non-government force, not necessarily directly supported or sanctioned by its government.
  • An irregular armed force enabling its leader to exercise military, economic, and political control over a subnational territory within a sovereign state (See: Warlord).
  • An official reserve army, composed of citizen soldiers. Called by various names in different countries, such as the Army Reserve, National Guard, or state defense forces.
  • The national police forces in several former communist states such as the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact countries, but also in the non-aligned SFR Yugoslavia. The term was inherited in Russia and other former CIS countries, where they are known as militsiya.
  • In France the equivalent term "Milice" has become tainted due to its use by notorious collaborators with Nazi Germany.[citation needed]
  • A select militia is composed of a small, non-representative portion of the population,[4] often politicized.[citation needed]


Militia derives from Latin roots:

  • miles /miːles/ : soldier[5]
  • -itia /iːtia/ : a state, activity, quality or condition of being[6][7]
  • militia /mil:iːtia/: Military service[5]

The word militia dates back to ancient Rome, and more recently to at least 1590 when it was recorded in a book by Sir John Smythe, Certain Discourses Military with the meanings: a military force; a body of soldiers and military affairs; a body of military discipline[8] The word Militia comes from ancient Latin, in which it meant defense service, as distinguished from a body of (armed) defenders which would be volgus militum. It should be noted that the term is used by several countries with the meaning of "defense activity" indicating it is taken directly from Latin.

Other Languages
العربية: ميليشيا
български: Милиция
català: Milícia
čeština: Domobrana
dansk: Milits
Ελληνικά: Πολιτοφυλακή
español: Milicia
Esperanto: Milico
euskara: Milizia
français: Milice
한국어: 민병
hrvatski: Milicija
Ido: Milico
Bahasa Indonesia: Milisi
italiano: Milizia
עברית: מיליציה
Bahasa Melayu: Militia
Nederlands: Militie
日本語: 民兵
norsk: Milits
norsk nynorsk: Milits
occitan: Milícia
polski: Milicja
português: Milícia
română: Miliție
Simple English: Militia
slovenčina: Domobrana
српски / srpski: Милиција
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Milicija
suomi: Miliisi
svenska: Milis
Türkçe: Milis
vèneto: Miłisia
中文: 民兵