de·​fen·​dant | \ di-ˈfen-dənt How to pronounce defendant (audio) , in legal circles often -ˌdant How to pronounce defendant (audio) \

Definition of defendant

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a person or group against whom a criminal or civil action is brought : someone who is being sued or accused of committing a crime if the jury finds the defendant not guilty — compare plaintiff



Definition of defendant (Entry 2 of 2)

: being on the defensive : defending

Examples of defendant in a Sentence

Noun The jury believed that the defendant was guilty.
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Maranda O’Donnell was one of those Harris County defendants. Gilbert Garcia,, "Garcia: District judge prods county courts to move on bail reform," 12 Feb. 2020 Capital murder is the most serious charge in Texas and prosecutors can use it when a defendant is accused of killing multiple victims. Nicole Chavez, CNN, "Attorneys for El Paso Walmart shooting suspect entered a not guilty plea in response to federal charges," 12 Feb. 2020 Old enough to remember Bill Barr giving a speech slamming local prosecutors for not throwing the book at defendants. TheWeek, "Bill Barr blasted the leniency of sanctuary cities the same day DOJ asked for a shorter sentence for Roger Stone," 11 Feb. 2020 Clawson conducted a welfare check on the defendant. Houston Chronicle, "Bellaire Police Department weekly report," 10 Feb. 2020 Today, the defendant has taken responsibility for the burning and destruction of three of our churches. Mariel Padilla, New York Times, "Louisiana Man Pleads Guilty to Burning Down Three Black Churches," 10 Feb. 2020 Both are defendants with Dantonio in Blackwell’s suit. Chris Solari, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan State football is in danger of re-entering the dark ages," 10 Feb. 2020 Allegedly, the defendants exploited a vulnerability in the Apache Struts Web Framework software that Equifax used in its online dispute portal. Courtney Linder, Popular Mechanics, "How Chinese Military Officers Allegedly Hacked Equifax," 10 Feb. 2020 Harris spent 819 days in jail along with Ghost Ship co-defendant Derick Almena, 49, the warehouse’s master tenant who remains behind bars. Megan Cassidy, San Francisco Chronicle, "Life after Ghost Ship," 7 Feb. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective On June 5, 2018, Woods and co-defendant Christian Pittman, 24, robbed the apartment of 28-year-old Diamond Smith and his girlfriend, who was home at the time, Walsh said. Robin Goist, cleveland, "Akron man sentenced to life in prison for deadly robbery," 16 Dec. 2019 Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Janet Protasiewicz looked at defendant Jesse McCauley. Sydney Czyzon, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Jesse McCauley to spend 35 years in prison for killing Minnesota man his girlfriend met at strip club," 18 July 2019 Others have wondered aloud if a conviction could be won if the defendant police officer in a fatal shooting were nonwhite and the victim white. Mark Curnutte,, "Why juries have a hard time convicting cops," 24 July 2017 Defendant Juan Thompson is believed to have committed about a dozen of them. David Kravets, Ars Technica, "Man who e-mailed bomb threats to frame former girlfriend pleads guilty," 13 June 2017 Defendant pleads guilty as St. Tammany murder trial enters fifth day Three days after testimony began in his second-degree murder trial in Covington, Calvin Jefferson pleaded guilty Friday morning (June 9) in the murder of his ex-wife in 2012. Carol Wolfram,, "Water boiling advisory lifted for Alton community," 9 June 2017 The [emoji laden] text message sent by Defendant 2 on June 5, 2016, was accompanied by quite a few symbols... Raisa Bruner, Time, "Judge Rules Couple Owes Money After Using These 'Misleading' Optimistic Emoji," 22 May 2017 Defendant Giles Cory was tortured to death while refusing to enter a plea at his trial. National Geographic, "5 Facts About the Real Salem Witch Hunt," 18 May 2017 Defendant Londro Emanuel Patterson III, 21, is charged with first-degree murder, two counts of aggravated robbery and aggravated battery. Matt Campbell,, "Defense rests without presenting evidence in first She’s a Pistol murder trial," 17 May 2017

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

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First Known Use of defendant


14th century, in the meaning defined above


14th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for defendant


Middle English defendaunt, borrowed from Anglo-French defendant, diffendaunt, noun derivative from present participle of defendre "to defend"


Middle English defendaunt, from Anglo-French defendant, present participle of defendre "to defend"

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Time Traveler for defendant

Time Traveler

The first known use of defendant was in the 14th century

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Statistics for defendant

Last Updated

16 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Defendant.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for defendant


How to pronounce defendant (audio) How to pronounce defendant (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of defendant

: a person who is being sued or accused of a crime in a court of law


de·​fen·​dant | \ di-ˈfen-dənt, -ˌdant How to pronounce defendant (audio) \

Legal Definition of defendant

: the party against whom a criminal or civil action is brought — see also answer, codefendant — compare accused, plaintiff

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