defense

1 of 2

noun

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)
1
a
: 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
2
a
: 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
3
a
: 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)
4
a
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 defensesSarah Kwak
5
government : the military and industrial aggregate that authorizes and supervises arms production
appropriations for defense
defense contract
defenseless adjective
defenselessly adverb
defenselessness noun

defense

2 of 2

verb

defensed; defensing

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

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
Antifungal medications can help hold valley fever at bay, but recovery ultimately depends on the individual’s immunological defenses. Zoya Teirstein, WIRED, 17 Feb. 2024 There are several players on an elite Browns defense facing free agency. Eddie Brown, San Diego Union-Tribune, 17 Feb. 2024 Before the trial in April 1995, Saldívar was arraigned and pleaded not guilty, with her defense attorneys arguing that the fatal shooting was an accident and that Saldivar was trying to kill herself not Selena, per CNN. Kelsie Gibson, Peoplemag, 17 Feb. 2024 Johnson scored 13 of his points in the quarter, as the Raider defense seemed to tire out the Gators. Mike Frainie, Baltimore Sun, 16 Feb. 2024 Scoring defense Last season: The Kings ranked 25th in scoring defense, allowing opponents to score 118.1 points per game. Jason Anderson, Sacramento Bee, 16 Feb. 2024 His defense attorney was not listed in public court records as of Feb. 16. Lauren Liebhaber, Kansas City Star, 16 Feb. 2024 The sprawling conglomerate, best known outside Japan for its Family Mart chain of convenience stores, said its aviation unit will cut ties with Elbit Systems, which bills itself as Israel’s largest defense contractor, by the end of February. Juliana Liu, CNN, 6 Feb. 2024 Asked at that hearing whether Trump’s view of presidential impunity could allow for the assassination of a political rival, defense attorney D. John Sauer did not disagree. Rachel Weiner, Washington Post, 6 Feb. 2024
Verb
Even if most defense spending remains national, the EU can use its budgetary resources for defense research and technology and to strengthen manufacturing capacity by placing joint orders to defense companies through the European Defense Agency or other collective mechanisms. Arancha González Laya, Foreign Affairs, 2 Feb. 2024 The militia was to defense what trial by jury was to justice: safety in numbers. TIME, 31 Jan. 2024 The Mid-American Conference standout showed off his penchant for finding the ball with a Football Bowl Subdivision high 25 passes defensed in 2023. Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz, The Enquirer, 8 Jan. 2024 Roquan Smith and Jadeveon Clowney are the leaders on defense, as Smith has a team-high 126 tackles and 6 passes defensed, while Clowney has 7.5 sacks and 7 tackles for loss. Steve Silverman, Forbes, 30 Nov. 2023 In addition to Uche’s fumble recovery, Jack Jones, Jabrill Peppers, and Myles Bryant all had passes defensed in the early going, and Rodney Randle, Jr. had an impressive pass breakup on a deep ball in the third quarter. Christopher Price, BostonGlobe.com, 23 Aug. 2023 Gardner played all 17 games last season, recording two interceptions and a league-high 20 passes defensed en route to winning Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. Nicole Yang, BostonGlobe.com, 7 Sep. 2023 Dansby Swanson The Cubs defense up the middle from second baseman Nico Hoerner and Swanson continues to play a big role in the team’s success. Meghan Montemurro, Chicago Tribune, 2 Sep. 2023 For his career, Darby has 373 tackles, eight interceptions and 90 passes defensed in 89 games, all but one of them starts. Brian Wacker, Baltimore Sun, 17 Aug. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'defense.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

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

First Known Use

Noun

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

Verb

1932, in the meaning defined above

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

Dictionary Entries Near defense

Cite this Entry

“Defense.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/defense. Accessed 25 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition

defense

noun
de·​fense
di-ˈfen(t)s;
 as antonym of "offense" often  ˈdē-ˌfen(t)s
1
: the act of defending : resistance against attack
2
: capability of resisting attack
3
a
: means or method of defending
b
: an argument in support
4
a
: a defending party or group
b
: a defensive team
5
: the answer made by the defendant in a legal action
defenseless
di-ˈfen(t)s-ləs
adjective
defenselessly adverb
defenselessness noun
defensibility
di-ˌfen(t)-sə-ˈbil-ət-ē
noun
defensible
-ˈfen(t)-sə-bəl
adjective
defensibly
-blē
adverb

Medical Definition

defense

noun
de·​fense
variants or chiefly British defence
: 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 fluidJack Metcoff

Legal Definition

defense

noun
1
: the act or action of defending see also self-defense
2
a
: 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)
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

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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