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 The judges also had an executive director of the ex-chief of justice and 16 other defendants arrested, among them a current judge and a retired judge, for allegedly exerting influence over certain cases. Sune Engel Rasmussen, WSJ, "Iran’s Conservative Judicial Chief Leads Probe Into Downing of Jet," 16 Jan. 2020 Nevertheless, Kassem was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in jail in a mass trial later in 2018, accused along with 738 other defendants of trying to overthrow the Sissi government. Washington Post, "U.S. citizen dies in Egyptian prison, despite warnings over his poor medical condition," 14 Jan. 2020 For the other defendants, prosecutors seek sentences ranging from five to 11 years., "Stories you may have missed from the world of business," 12 Jan. 2020 Coercive tactics Lawyers for Pratt and the other defendants argued that the women weren't victims at all. Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica, "Judge awards women $13 million in massive lawsuit against GirlsDoPorn," 4 Jan. 2020 The other defendants have also been released on bond. Steve Helling,, "Colo. Daycare Owner Charged After Allegedly Hiding 26 Kids Behind Fake Wall to Avoid Detection," 27 Dec. 2019 Similar litigation filed in Georgia also identifies other defendants. Noel Oman, Arkansas Online, "Aviation business sued for '18 crash," 24 Dec. 2019 His February 1 guilty plea prompted nearly all of the other defendants to begin plea negotiations, prosecutors said. CBS News, "Tekashi 6ix9ine sentenced to 2 years in prison in racketeering case," 18 Dec. 2019 Estelle set Smith’s bail at $100,000 cash and ordered no contact with victims or the other defendants. Zaz Hollander, Anchorage Daily News, "Couple beaten and stabbed, woman asleep next door shot during violent assault near Wasilla last week," 10 Dec. 2019 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

19 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Defendant.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 23 January 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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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).


out of the ordinary or unreasonable

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