defensive

adjective
de·​fen·​sive | \di-ˈfen(t)-siv, ˈdē-ˌ \

Definition of defensive 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1 : serving to defend or protect defensive fortifications

2a : devoted to resisting or preventing aggression or attack defensive behavior He became defensive when I brought up his spending habits.

b sports : of or relating to the attempt to keep an opponent from scoring in a game or contest a player with good defensive skills made a brilliant defensive play

3 card games

a : valuable in defensive play a defensive card in bridge

b : designed to keep an opponent from being the highest bidder a defensive bid

defensive

noun

Definition of defensive (Entry 2 of 2)

: a position serving to protect or defend : a defensive position

on the defensive

: in the state or condition of being prepared or required to defend against attack or criticism keeping his political opponent on the defensive

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Other Words from defensive

Adjective

defensively adverb
defensiveness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for defensive

Synonyms: Adjective

protective, self-protective

Synonyms: Noun

guard

Antonyms: Adjective

offensive

Antonyms: Noun

offensive

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Examples of defensive in a Sentence

Adjective

The city began building a defensive wall around its borders. The government decided to join a defensive alliance with several other nations. I was surprised by his defensive reaction to my suggestion. There's no need to get so defensive. I was only making a suggestion. When we asked her about the mistakes, she became defensive. The coach has a strong defensive strategy.

Noun

their unexpectedly harsh words put him on the defensive
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Hopkins noted Bey’s defensive presence and the 6-6 guard finished with four rebounds. Percy Allen, The Seattle Times, "Three takeaways from UW Huskies’ 83-59 win over Eastern Washington," 28 Nov. 2018 In effect, this change made Japanese law consistent with the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which allows countries to develop defensive capabilities in space. Eric Berger, Ars Technica, "Quietly, Japan has established itself as a power in the aerospace industry," 15 Nov. 2018 Your job, as part of a team of 12, is to spend those precious early moments building a defensive structure around your mascot. Andrew Webster, The Verge, "Fortnite’s frantic food fight is its best mode yet," 15 Nov. 2018 The defensive numbers haven’t dipped, either, and many of them have done the opposite. Theo Lawson, The Seattle Times, "One reason for WSU’s success compared to ‘selfish’ 2017 Cougars? ‘We love each other, man’," 14 Nov. 2018 The Air Force is looking to install defensive systems—including lasers—to protect tankers and other large support aircraft. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "How China's New Missile Concept Could Cripple American Air Power," 23 Oct. 2018 For the first time this season, Will Johnson is the defensive midfielder alongside Yoshi Yotun in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Jordan Culver, Pro Soccer USA, "Orlando City goalkeeper Joe Bendik benched, lineup changes for Lions," 14 July 2018 All the things needed to be a good defensive mid in this league. Jordan Culver, Pro Soccer USA, "Orlando City midfielder Cam Lindley called up for 2018 MLS Homegrown Game," 12 July 2018 The experienced point guard nailed a three-pointer on the opening possession of the extra period, then after a defensive stop knocked down a midrange jumper. Matt Velazquez, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "It's a start! Top pick Donte DiVincenzo plays his first game as a Buck," 12 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

However, his decisive role in derailing ObamaCare repeal helped put Republicans on the defensive in the midterms. WSJ, "John McCain and the GOP Loss of the House," 13 Nov. 2018 For eight years, Democrats have been on the defensive from the official Republican position: Obamacare is bad and needs to be repealed. Dylan Scott, Vox, "The real Republican record on preexisting conditions: GOP is trying to roll back protections," 18 Oct. 2018 But since Kavanaugh went on the defensive over the assault claims, Collins has come under even more pressure to take a side. Celeste Katz, Glamour, "Here Are the Senate Women at the Center of the Brett Kavanaugh Debate," 5 Oct. 2018 The Democratic primary in Paul Ryan’s Wisconsin district has turned nasty, as the initial favorite, Randy Bryce, finds himself on the defensive against local school board member Cathy Myers. James Hohmann, Washington Post, "The Daily 202: Kavanaugh’s paper trail makes his confirmation harder but ensures he’ll be reliably conservative," 10 July 2018 The Cowboys just picked up the fifth-year option on the rookie contract of defensive back Byron Jones, picked ahead of Gregory. Schuyler Dixon, San Antonio Express-News, "Dumping Dez may not mean Cowboys seek receiver high in draft," 25 Apr. 2018 Another Samford alumnus appeared on Friday's NFL transactions wire: The Cleveland Browns announced the termination of the contract of defensive back Corey White. Mark Inabinett, AL.com, "Samford's Nick Williams returns to NFL," 21 Apr. 2018 His maternal grandfather, Vince Lorrain, was a defensive back and punt returner for Jim Owens’ Washington teams in the mid-1960s. Adam Jude, The Seattle Times, "UW Huskies make scholarship offer to Kennedy Catholic’s Sam Huard, top QB recruit in 2021 class," 12 Nov. 2018 While Gorsuch was a debate enthusiast, Kavanaugh was a jock — captain of the basketball team and a defensive back in football. Michael Kranish And Ann E. Marimow, BostonGlobe.com, "From Clinton to Trump: How Brett Kavanaugh navigated through some of Washington’s biggest scandals," 10 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'defensive.' 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 defensive

Adjective

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun

circa 1585, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for defensive

Adjective

Middle English defensif, borrowed from Anglo-French, borrowed from Medieval Latin dēfensīvus, from Latin dēfensus, past participle of dēfendere "to ward off, defend" + -īvus -ive

Noun

Middle English defensif "something acting as protection," borrowed from Medieval Latin dēfensīvum, noun derivative from neuter of dēfensīvus defensive entry 1

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Statistics for defensive

Last Updated

3 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for defensive

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

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More Definitions for defensive

defensive

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of defensive

: defending or protecting someone or something from attack : helping to keep a person or thing safe

: behaving in a way that shows that you feel people are criticizing you

sports : of or relating to the way that players try to stop an opponent from scoring in a game or contest

defensive

adjective
de·​fen·​sive | \di-ˈfen-siv \

Kids Definition of defensive

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : serving or meant to defend or protect a defensive structure

2 : relating to the attempt to keep an opponent from scoring a defensive play

3 : showing a dislike for criticism She got defensive about my suggestion.

Other Words from defensive

defensively adverb

defensive

noun

Kids Definition of defensive (Entry 2 of 2)

: a position or attitude that is meant to defend The criticism put him on the defensive.

defensive

adjective
de·​fen·​sive | \di-ˈfen(t)-siv, ˈdē-ˌ \

Medical Definition of defensive 

1 : serving to defend or protect (as the ego) face-saving is a common defensive reactionPsychology Today

2 : devoted to resisting or preventing aggression or attack defensive behavior

Other Words from defensive

defensively adverb
defensiveness noun

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defensive

adjective
de·​fen·​sive

Legal Definition of defensive 

1 : serving to defend or as part of a defense a defensive pleading

2 : devoted to resisting or preventing aggressive actions a defensive recapitalization…to escape a takeover attempt— Barbara Franklin

Other Words from defensive

defensively adverb

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Comments on defensive

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