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 There is nothing at all to like about defendant Elliott, and so all one’s worry and sympathy go to the lawyer. Robert Lloyd, Los Angeles Times, 11 May 2022 Seeking a non-jury, or bench trial, is often a strategy employed when a defendant can come across as unlikeable to jurors. Philip Marcelo, Chicago Tribune, 10 May 2022 And in 2017, while awaiting a new trial, Michael entered an Alford plea — when a defendant admits there is sufficient evidence for a conviction, but asserts innocence — to the manslaughter of his wife. Wilson Wong, NBC News, 5 May 2022 Vallow Daybell's co-defendant and husband, Chad Daybell, is also facing a potential death penalty if convicted. CBS News, 4 May 2022 Writing for the court, Chief Justice John Minton Jr. said Boling falsely suggested no evidence existed that defendant Karen Brafman was intoxicated at the time of the offenses. Andrew Wolfson, The Courier-Journal, 4 May 2022 Those organizations often have a different relationship to a defendant than a family member or friend. Lawrence Andrea, The Indianapolis Star, 4 May 2022 Daybell's co-defendant and husband, Chad Daybell, is also facing a potential death penalty if convicted. The Arizona Republic, 4 May 2022 Lori Daybell’s co-defendant and husband, Chad Daybell, is also facing a potential death penalty if convicted. The Salt Lake Tribune, 3 May 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The guilty plea came just one hour before Keeler's federal trial was scheduled to begin and a week after his co-defendant, former state Sen. Brent Waltz, pleaded guilty. Tony Cook, The Indianapolis Star, 18 Apr. 2022 His co-defendant, 29-year-old Keani Flores, awaits trial. City News Service, San Diego Union-Tribune, 17 Feb. 2022 Illumina is betting on the courts and their history of pro-defendant rulings. Steve Lohr, New York Times, 10 Feb. 2022 Bell’s co-defendant, 66-year-old Anthony Sanderson, also was sentenced this week to time served. Kevin Grasha, The Enquirer, 10 Feb. 2022 In a separate motion, Householder asked to be tried separately from the only remaining co-defendant still set to stand trial: lobbyist and former Ohio Republican Party Chair Matt Borges. Jeremy Pelzer, cleveland, 2 Feb. 2022 Holmes and co-defendant Balwani were indicted in 2018 on 11 counts of fraud and conspiracy for allegedly defrauding investors in their blood diagnostics startup, Theranos. NBC News, 18 Dec. 2021 His co-defendant, 40-year-old Joshua Daniel Powell, of Moody, pleaded guilty in June to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Carol Robinson |, al, 21 Sep. 2021 Niedrach sentenced Lane’s co-defendant, 21-year-old Jacob Oliver Kaderli, to serve six years. Chris Joyner, ajc, 19 Nov. 2021 See More

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.

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

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Last Updated

15 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Defendant.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for defendant


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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