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 city of San Diego declined to settle the case and remains a defendant in the proceeding. Kelly Davis, San Diego Union-Tribune, "San Diego County agrees to pay $3.5M to settle 2018 jail death," 5 Apr. 2021 Rodriguez also alleges that defendant asked her for nude photographs during her FTO phase. Carrie Napoleon,, "East Chicago police officer loses bid to end harassment lawsuit," 5 Apr. 2021 Brass said it’s not unusual for a defendant’s sentencing to be delayed for several months. Megan Cassidy, San Francisco Chronicle, "An S.F. man pleaded guilty to child porn charges. Then he kept score at Stuart Hall basketball game," 2 Apr. 2021 The case is the latest in a series in which the court has calibrated the standards and burdens of proof between plaintiff shareholders and defendant corporations in big-dollar class actions. Jess Bravin, WSJ, "Supreme Court Weighs Merit of Goldman Sachs Ethics Statements," 29 Mar. 2021 In one case, a crowdfunding website set up in late 2020 has been adopted by a defendant charged with storming the Capitol, who has used it to raise almost $180,000. Brenna Smith, USA TODAY, "Insurrection fundraiser: Capitol riot extremists, Trump supporters continue to raise money for lawyer bills online," 28 Mar. 2021 Judges must consider a defendant’s ability to pay when setting bail amounts, the court said. David Lauter, Los Angeles Times, "Essential Politics: Biden’s senior appointments are almost 60% women. He’s on track for a historic milestone," 26 Mar. 2021 Legal competency is the measure of a defendant’s ability to understand the charges against them and assist in their own defense. James Whitlow,, "Harford man accused of shooting ‘hundreds’ of rounds at sheriff’s deputies found competent to stand trial," 25 Mar. 2021 Each defendant will face removal proceedings upon completion of their prison terms. Mica Soellner, Washington Examiner, "Two Ukrainian nationals sentenced for trafficking counterfeit cancer and hepatitis drugs," 25 Mar. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Khater allegedly said to co-defendant George Pierre Tanios, 39, of Morgantown, West Virginia, who is shown reaching into his backpack, according to charging documents. Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY, "FBI releases video of 10 rioters who allegedly committed most brutal assaults on police officers," 18 Mar. 2021 Prosecutors say that Jackson, Williams and co-defendant Victor D. Edwards, 31, of St. Paul, went to the Target headquarters on Nicollet, where dozens of others had gathered and started rioting. Paul Walsh, Star Tribune, "2 admit setting fires at Minneapolis Target HQ amid riot over false rumor," 26 Jan. 2021 After a two-week trial, Jolanda’s client was found not guilty while his co-defendant cousin, in the same trial with the same jury but different lawyer, was convicted on both counts and sentenced to 20- and 40-year sentences, respectively. Dalton Ross,, "Survivor Quarantine Questionnaire: Jolanda Jones on being portrayed as the 'bitch' in Palau," 2 Oct. 2020 He and co-defendant Lynwood Jennet originally were charged with 32 counts related to Medicaid fraud. Robert Anglen, azcentral, "Former County Assessor Paul Petersen pleads guilty to welfare fraud in international adoption scheme," 18 June 2020 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

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

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

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Statistics for defendant

Last Updated

9 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Defendant.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for defendant



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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