de·fen·dant | \di-ˈfen-dənt, in legal circles often -ˌdant \

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


The jury believed that the defendant was guilty.

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The lawsuit lists Comey, Obama, former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, former FBI Director Andrew McCabe and another FBI official as defendants. Nicholas Rondinone,, "In Lawsuit Citing Clinton Email Probe, Groton Sailor Pardoned By Trump Seeks $20M In Damages," 13 July 2018 Kapoor and several others are also named as defendants in the suits against Simon. Andy Marso, kansascity, "Another lawsuit accuses Overland Park doctor of kickbacks from opioid spray maker," 13 July 2018 Jesse Harris III and Tiffany Griffin Harris named KiddieGarden Childcare, its owner and an employee as defendants. Mark Alesia, Indianapolis Star, "Parents of baby injured at daycare file lawsuit alleging he was 'beaten or attacked'," 12 July 2018 The sound of chains dropping to the floor could be heard as the defendants were unshackled before being led into the courtroom. Kristina Davis,, "San Diego federal court begins fast-tracking border-crossing cases. Critics call it 'assembly line justice'," 10 July 2018 The lawsuit also lists former Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr., Armor Correctional Health Care Services Inc. and a psychiatric medical director for Armor as defendants. Diana Dombrowski, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Ex-cop sues Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office alleging inhumane conditions in jail," 7 July 2018 The suit also names distributors Cardinal Health, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen as defendants. Shawn R. Beals, Courant Community, "Middletown Becomes Latest Town To Sue Drug Companies," 6 July 2018 The lawsuit names Polynesian Inn LLC, Bickford and an unnamed representative of Ganoe’s estate as defendants. Marco Santana,, "Murder case that saw Aramis Ayala, Rick Scott clash central to insurance suit," 6 July 2018 The allegations by the former employees, both men, were made in lawsuits filed in the past two years in Florida and name both the chief executive and National Beverage Corp. as defendants. Fox News, "Billionaire behind LaCroix accused of improper touching by pilots," 4 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

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 Defendant’s right to counsel The case: Williams vs. Jones, 2009. David Migoya, The Denver Post, "What 10 key opinions by Neil Gorsuch say about his judicial mindset," 2 Feb. 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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Statistics for defendant

Last Updated

12 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for defendant

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

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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 \

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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Comments on defendant

What made you want to look up defendant? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to reject or criticize sharply

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