verb de·fend \ di-ˈfend \
|Updated on: 16 Aug 2018

Definition of defend

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 him
  • —Shakespeare
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
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


play \ˈfen-də-bəl\ adjective

Examples of defend in a Sentence

  1. The company must defend its own interests.

  2. We believed it was a cause worth defending.

  3. She defended her friend's behavior.

  4. Stop defending him. What he did was wrong.

Recent Examples of defend from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'defend.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Origin and Etymology of defend

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 *gwhń-tih2, Germanic *gunþī, *gunþjō, whence Old English gūþ "battle, combat," Old Saxon gūđea, Old Norse gunnr, guđr

defend Synonyms

Synonym Discussion of 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

DEFEND Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of defend for English Language Learners

  • : to fight in order to keep (someone or something) safe : to not allow a person or thing to hurt, damage, or destroy (someone or something)

  • : to fight or work hard in order to keep (something, such as a right, interest, cause, etc.) from being taken away

  • : to speak or write in support of (someone or something that is being challenged or criticized)

DEFEND Defined for Kids


verb de·fend \ di-ˈfend \

Definition of defend for Students

defended; defending
1 : to protect from danger or attack
2 : to act or speak in favor of when others are opposed She defended her teacher against the class's complaints.

Synonym Discussion of defend

defend, protect, and safeguard mean to keep safe. defend is used for a danger or an attack that is actual or threatening.
    • The soldiers defended the fort against enemy troops.
protect is used when some kind of shield can prevent possible attack or injury.
    • Protect your eyes with dark glasses.
safeguard is used when a course of action can protect against a possible danger.
    • The health rules help safeguard the students from disease.

Law Dictionary


transitive verb de·fend

legal Definition of defend

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
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 insanity
  • —W. R. LaFave and A. W. Scott, Jr.

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excessive admiration or flattery

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