defense

noun
de·​fense | \di-ˈfen(t)s; as antonym of "offense" often ˈdē-ˌ \

Definition of defense 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1a : the act or action of defending (see defend) the defense of our country speak out in defense of justice quickly jumped to her friend's defense

b law : the denial, answer, or plea (see plea sense 2b) of one against whom a criminal or civil action is brought : a defendant 's denial, answer, or plea

2a : capability of resisting attack the body's defense against disease

b sports : ability to keep an opponent from scoring in a game or contest : defensive play or ability a player known for good defense

3a : means or method of defending or protecting oneself, one's team, or another the nation's air and ground defenses Big shells are an effective defense against these predators as well.— Gregory P. Dietl also : a defensive structure

b : an argument in support or justification offered no defense of his actions

c law : the collected facts and method adopted by a defendant to protect and defend against a plaintiff's action His lawyers used an insanity defense.

d chess : a sequence of moves available to the second player in the opening (see opening sense 3a)

4a law : a defending party or group (as in a court of law) The defense rests.

b sports : a defensive team He was the linchpin of one of the league's stoutest defenses— Sarah Kwak

5 government : the military and industrial aggregate that authorizes and supervises arms production appropriations for defense defense contract

defense

verb
defensed; defensing

Definition of defense (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

sports

: to take specific defensive action against (an opposing team or player or an offensive play) : to attempt to keep (an opponent or play) from scoring in a game or contest The gangly Pressey was clearly Milwaukee's only real hope of defensing Bird …— Jack McCallum

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from defense

Noun

defenseless \-​ləs \ adjective
defenselessly adverb
defenselessness noun

Examples of defense in a Sentence

Noun

They put up a good defense, but the city ultimately fell to the invaders. They mounted a good defense. The city's defenses were not strong enough to keep out the invaders. We need to improve our defenses. the nation's air and ground defenses
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Russia says that the U.S. has broken the INF agreement by basing missile-defense systems in Europe that Moscow argues can be used to launch strikes on Russia. Thomas Grove, WSJ, "Putin Threatens Arms Race as U.S. Prepares to Exit Nuclear Treaty," 5 Dec. 2018 After spilling a white man's blood in self defense, Rufus is attacked and hung by his stomach. Mehera Bonner, Harper's BAZAAR, "Outlander Season 4 Episode 2: Claire and Jamie Face the Realities of Life in America," 12 Nov. 2018 The addition of a heat-seeking missile to the Reaper's load would give it at least some sort of self-defense option. Sean Gallagher, Ars Technica, "Top drone: Reaper scores drone kill in air-to-air missile test," 20 Sep. 2018 Outdoor security cameras provide a line of defense for your home, and smart capabilities elevate that by adding control and peace-of-mind to your home security system. Alexandria Haslam, PCWorld, "These Ring bundle discounts will save you big bucks on smart home security," 6 Sep. 2018 While our system can usually fight off this invading bacteria, sometimes our natural defenses slack off, allowing the E. coli to linger and multiply. Amy Capetta, Redbook, "6 Signs of UTI That You'll Hopefully Never Experience," 6 Aug. 2018 McVay and his staff will use part of their bye week to study this triumph over the Chiefs, likely turning a critical eye on ways to help a defense that relied on big plays to survive this thriller. Greg Beacham, The Seattle Times, "Rams roll into bye week buzzing from epic win over Chiefs," 21 Nov. 2018 Aerospace and defense companies often see higher cash inflows toward the end of the year, in part because governments tend to award most of their contracts then. Nina Trentmann, WSJ, "New Airbus CFO to Face Volatile Cash Flow, Brexit Issues," 21 Nov. 2018 Upon seeing Morgan’s repetitive comments, Ariana’s mom, Joan, did not hesitate to speak out in Little Mix's defense. Sara Delgado, Teen Vogue, "Ariana Grande Said “Thank U, Next” to Piers Morgan When He Came After Her Mom and Little Mix," 21 Nov. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

These are some of the questions that defense attorneys asked a Yale University student who brought a rape complaint against her classmate. Katie Reilly, Time, "A Yale Student Accused Her Classmate of Rape. His Lawyers Asked What She Was Wearing and How Much She Drank," 9 Mar. 2018 What does this mean for Kentucky’s defense moving forward? Joe Mussatto, ajc, "Kentucky Wildcats podcast: Staff news in Lexington while coaching rumors persist in Knoxville," 30 Nov. 2017 Among the concerns for the Aztecs coming into the game was how to defense Boise State’s quarterback(s). Kirk Kenney, sandiegouniontribune.com, "No. 19 Aztecs' winning streak ends in 31-14 loss to Boise State," 15 Oct. 2017 In fact, the alliance had long ago set a goal that each member would devote at least 2 percent of GDP to defense in their own budgets. The Washington Post, Twin Cities, "Trump bid to smooth relations with Merkel complicated by policy, personal differences," 17 Mar. 2017 PHILADELPHIA — Sharks defense partners Brent Burns and Paul Martin have a pretty special relationship. Curtis Pashelka, The Mercury News, "Sharks’ Paul Martin having a role in Brent Burns’ success," 10 Feb. 2017 The Lakers cut the lead to 10 in the third quarter and to 12 in the fourth, but no one other than Jordan Clarkson could give the surging Clippers defense any problems. Dan Woike, Orange County Register, "‘Unstoppable’ DeAndre Jordan dominates as Clippers beat Lakers, 113-97," 14 Jan. 2017 Trump has called for massive hikes to defense spending and harsh cuts to domestic agencies in his 2018 budget, a proposal that many Republicans have rejected out of hand. The Washington Post, The Denver Post, "Congress passes spending deal to keep the federal government open another week," 28 Apr. 2017

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

See More

First Known Use of defense

Noun

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Verb

1932, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for defense

Noun

Middle English defense, defence, borrowed from Anglo-French defens, defense, defence, borrowed from Medieval Latin dēfensa, dēfensum (Late Latin dēfensa "vengeance"), nominal derivatives from feminine and neuter of Latin dēfensus, past participle of dēfendere "to ward off, defend"

Verb

derivative of defense entry 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about defense

Statistics for defense

Last Updated

12 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for defense

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for defense

defense

noun

English Language Learners Definition of defense

: the act of defending someone or something from attack

: something that is used to protect yourself, your country, etc.

: the act of speaking or writing in support of someone or something that is being attacked or criticized

defense

noun
de·​fense | \di-ˈfens \

Kids Definition of defense

1 : the act of protecting or defending They were defeated in spite of a brave defense.

2 : something that defends or protects … sneaking out to spy on him was not much of a defense against his treachery.— Lemony Snicket, The Austere Academy

3 : the players on a team who try to stop the other team from scoring

Other Words from defense

defenseless \-​ləs \ adjective

defense

noun
de·​fense
variants: or chiefly British defence \di-​ˈfen(t)s \

Medical Definition of defense 

: a means or method of protecting the physical or functional integrity of body or mind ability to concentrate urine may be interpreted as a renal defense of body volume fluid— Jack Metcoff

Keep scrolling for more

defense

noun
de·​fense | \di-ˈfens, ˈdē-ˌfens \

Legal Definition of defense 

1 : the act or action of defending — see also self-defense

2a : the theory or ground that forms the basis for a defendant's opposition to an allegation in a complaint or to a charge in a charging instrument (as an indictment) also : the evidence and arguments presented supporting the defendant's opposition — see also accord, alibi, assumption of risk, coercion, consent, contributory negligence at negligence, denial, diminished capacity, duress, entrapment, estoppel, fraud, infancy, insanity, intoxication, laches, mistake, necessity, res judicata, statute of limitations

absolute defense

: complete defense in this entry

affirmative defense

: a defense that does not deny the truth of the allegations against the defendant but gives some other reason (as insanity, assumption of risk, or expiration of the statute of limitations) why the defendant cannot be held liable

Note: The defendant bears the burden of proof as to affirmative defenses.

choice of evils defense

: a defense to a criminal charge based on the assertion that the criminal act was committed to avoid the commission of an even greater evil

called also lesser evils defense

Note: In jurisdictions that recognize the choice of evils defense, it encompasses both of the older defenses of duress and necessity.

complete defense

: a defense that shields the defendant from any liability and bars any recovery by the plaintiff — compare partial defense in this entry

lesser evils defense

: choice of evils defense in this entry

meritorious defense

: a defense that is based on evidence sufficient to warrant setting aside a default judgment against the defendant in civil litigation

partial defense

: a defense by which the defendant reduces the amount of damages of which he or she is liable — compare complete defense in this entry

b : a basis upon which an obligor of a negotiable instrument may avoid liability under the instrument

personal defense

: a defense of an obligor under a negotiable instrument that can be asserted against anyone but a holder in due course

real defense

: a defense of an obligor of a negotiable instrument that may be asserted even against a holder in due course

Note: Section 3-305(a)(1) of the Uniform Commercial Code sets out the real defenses as infancy, duress, lack of legal capacity, illegality of the transaction, fraud in the factum, and discharge of the obligor by a bankruptcy court. By exclusion, all other defenses are personal defenses.

3 : the defending side in a legal proceeding the defense rests — compare prosecution

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on defense

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with defense

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for defense

Spanish Central: Translation of defense

Nglish: Translation of defense for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of defense for Arabic Speakers

Comments on defense

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

WORD OF THE DAY

having a pattern of small flowers

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Find the Cousins

  • a-large-tree-with-many-branches
  • Which pair shares a common word ancestor?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!