de·​fense | \ di-ˈfen(t)s How to pronounce defense (audio) ; as antonym of "offense" often ˈdē-ˌfen(t)s How to pronounce defense (audio) \

Definition of defense

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : the act or action of defending 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


defensed; defensing

Definition of defense (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: 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

Other Words from defense


defenseless \ di-​ˈfen(t)s-​ləs How to pronounce defense (audio) \ 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
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The Patriots also played in 21 playoff games, six AFC Championship games, and four Super Bowls with Wilfork anchoring the defense. Andrew Mahoney,, 17 May 2022 New Zealand sanctioned Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, a CSTO member, and other Belarusian officials and defense entitites. WSJ, 17 May 2022 The Tigers' defense aided Faedo in the second inning. Evan Petzold, Detroit Free Press, 17 May 2022 The Indiana Pacers’ identity has centered around defense throughout much of the last decade. Tony East, Forbes, 17 May 2022 The Celtics are now coached by Ime Udoka, who morphed Boston’s defense into the league’s best in his first season. New York Times, 17 May 2022 Well, for starters, Bears opponents posted a 103.3 passer rating, the highest allowed by any NFL defense. Dan Wiederer, Chicago Tribune, 17 May 2022 The offense wears white, defense wears teal and quarterbacks or others who are participating while nursing injuries wear red, non-contact jerseys. David Furones, Sun Sentinel, 17 May 2022 For extra innings, the defense gets a pitcher, catcher and one fielder. Los Angeles Times, 16 May 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Mickelson was not called to testify; his attorney had told both the prosecution and defense his client would invoke his Fifth Amendment rights. Gene Wang, Washington Post, 15 May 2022 Dorow consented to defense requests to close a portion of the four-hour hearing, an issue to which the Waukesha County District Attorney's Office did not object. Jim Riccioli, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 29 Mar. 2022 Not exactly a stellar performance considering Ohio State scored 44 first-half points against a compromised version of that same Hoosiers defense two weeks earlier. Nathan Baird, cleveland, 8 Nov. 2021 Opponents have converted 59% of their third-down plays against Miami, making the Dolphins defense the NFL's worst in those situations. Scott Horner, The Indianapolis Star, 30 Sep. 2021 Only then can defense attorneys and the public challenge the plan, Gilmer said. Ken Ritter, Star Tribune, 20 May 2021 All-American, but the Gators moved the bulky lineman to defense. Adam Lichtenstein,, 28 Apr. 2021 Junior Joe Brunner was named as an offensive and defensive lineman and senior Grover Bortolotti received distinction as a running back and defense back. Mark Stewart, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 30 Nov. 2020 There’s significant competition lower on the depth chart as the freshmen will push for time and Kris Hutson, Josh Delgado, Lance Wilhoite and Bryan Addison, who moved to defense late last season, are all aiming for more reps. oregonlive, 30 Mar. 2021 See More

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.

First Known Use of defense


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


1932, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for defense


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"


derivative of defense entry 1

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

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defense in depth

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Statistics for defense

Last Updated

20 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Defense.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for defense


de·​fense | \ di-ˈfens How to pronounce defense (audio) \

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


variants: or chiefly British defence \ di-​ˈfen(t)s How to pronounce defense (audio) \

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


de·​fense | \ di-ˈfens, ˈdē-ˌfens How to pronounce defense (audio) \

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

More from Merriam-Webster on defense

Nglish: Translation of defense for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of defense for Arabic Speakers


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