defend

verb

de·​fend di-ˈfend How to pronounce defend (audio)
defended; defending; defends

transitive verb

1
a
: to drive danger or attack away from
defend the castle from invaders
b(1)
: to maintain or support in the face of argument or hostile criticism
defend a theory
couldn't defend their actions
(2)
: to prove (something, such as a doctoral thesis or dissertation) valid by answering questions in an oral exam
preparing to defend her thesis
c
sports : to attempt to prevent an opponent from scoring at
elects to defend the south goal
2
archaic : prevent, forbid
which God defend that I should wring from himShakespeare
3
: to act as attorney for
hired a lawyer to defend their son
4
law : to deny or oppose the right of a plaintiff in regard to (a suit or a wrong charged) : contest
5
: to retain or seek to retain (something, such as a title or position) against a challenge in a contest
they successfully defended their championship

intransitive verb

1
: to take action against attack or challenge
the defending champion
2
sports : to play or be on defense
playing deep to defend against a pass
3
card games : to play against the high bidder
defendable adjective
Choose the Right Synonym for defend

defend, protect, shield, guard, safeguard mean to keep secure from danger or against attack.

defend denotes warding off actual or threatened attack.

defend the country

protect implies the use of something (such as a covering) as a bar to the admission or impact of what may attack or injure.

a hard hat to protect your head

shield suggests protective intervention in imminent danger or actual attack.

shielded her eyes from the sun with her hand

guard implies protecting with vigilance and force against expected danger.

White House entrances are well guarded

safeguard implies taking precautionary protective measures against merely possible danger.

our civil liberties must be safeguarded

synonyms see in addition maintain

Examples of defend in a Sentence

The company must defend its own interests. We believed it was a cause worth defending. She defended her friend's behavior. Stop defending him. What he did was wrong.
Recent Examples on the Web Jordan Coleman, the defending City Section champion in the 100 meters, made his outdoors debut for Granada Hills on Thursday during a dual meet against El Camino Real. Eric Sondheimer, Los Angeles Times, 12 Apr. 2024 Anticipating political pushback, the vice president defended the move. Robert Legare, CBS News, 11 Apr. 2024 Asked by interviewer Andrew Ross Sorkin about the Federal Trade Commission’s antitrust lawsuit regarding Amazon, which argues in part that Amazon abuses its power over these merchants, Jassy defended the way the company treats these small and midsize businesses. Jason Del Rey, Fortune, 11 Apr. 2024 Some journalists have defended Mr. Berliner’s essay. Katie Robertson, New York Times, 11 Apr. 2024 Since 2014, the main means of defending against these drones has been electronic warfare (EW), in its many forms. IEEE Spectrum, 10 Apr. 2024 Tradition intact, with an asterisk The tournament’s unwritten law of pairing the defending Masters champion with the winner of the previous year’s U.S. Amateur remains — with a twist. Bob Spear, Charlotte Observer, 10 Apr. 2024 In other words, yes, support Israel’s right to defend itself. ABC News, 31 Mar. 2024 Those who defended the plan said the risk is real, but manageable, and that the United States is showing leadership by looking for new ways to feed Palestinians trapped by the fighting. Dan Lamothe, Washington Post, 31 Mar. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'defend.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Middle English defenden, borrowed from Anglo-French & Latin; Anglo-French defendre, defender, going back to Latin dēfendere "to ward off, fend off, repel danger from, protect," from dē- de- + -fendere, presumably, "to strike, hit" (unattested without prefixes), going back to Indo-European *gwhen-dh-, extended determinate form of *gwhen-, *gwhn- "strike, kill," whence Hittite kuenzi "(s/he) kills," kunanzi "(they) kill," Sanskrit hánti "(s/he) strikes, kills," ghnánti "(they) strike, kill," Greek theínein "to strike," épethnon "(I) killed," Old Irish gonaid "(s/he) pierces, wounds, kills," Welsh gwan- "stab, pierce," Lithuanian genù, giñti "to drive (cattle, etc.)," Old Church Slavic ženǫ, gŭnati "to drive, chase out, expel"; also, from nominal derivative *gwhon-, Greek phónos "bloodshed, murder," and from *gwhń̥-tih2, Germanic *gunþī, *gunþjō, whence Old English gūþ "battle, combat," Old Saxon gūđea, Old High German gund-, Old Icelandic gunnr, guðr

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of defend was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near defend

Cite this Entry

“Defend.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/defend. Accessed 19 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition

defend

verb
de·​fend di-ˈfend How to pronounce defend (audio)
1
: to repel danger or attack
defending their own country
2
: to act as attorney for
3
: to oppose the claim of another in a lawsuit : contest
4
: to uphold against opposition
defended the freedom of the press

Legal Definition

defend

transitive verb
de·​fend
1
: to drive danger or attack away from
using a weapon to defend oneself
2
: to act as attorney for (a defendant)
appointed to defend the accused
3
: to deny or oppose the rights of a plaintiff in regard to (a suit or claim)
intend to defend the case

intransitive verb

1
: to take action against attack or challenge
not justified in striking first, but may defend
2
: to present a defense
may not thereafter defend on grounds of insanityW. R. LaFave and A. W. Scott, Jr.

More from Merriam-Webster on defend

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