defensive

adjective
de·​fen·​sive | \ di-ˈfen(t)-siv How to pronounce defensive (audio) , ˈdē-ˌfen(t)- How to pronounce defensive (audio) \

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 also : of or relating to a team that is not in possession of the ball or puck a defensive lineman
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

Synonyms: Noun

Antonyms: Adjective

Antonyms: Noun

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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 The drive was helped by a defensive holding call on Hairston — starting in place of Trumaine Johnson — on fourth and 2 from the Jets 24. BostonGlobe.com, "Odell Beckham on what it meant to return to MetLife," 17 Sep. 2019 The drive was helped by a defensive holding call on Hairston -- starting in place of Trumaine Johnson -- on fourth-and-2 from the Jets 24. oregonlive, "Odell Beckham, Jr. powers the Cleveland Browns to the win over the New York Jets: Recap, score, stats and more," 16 Sep. 2019 Unlike a week ago, Texans star defensive end J.J. Watt wasn't shut out of the box score. Aaron Wilson, Houston Chronicle, "Texans' J.J. Watt has resurgent game, puzzled by lack of holding calls," 15 Sep. 2019 The Bengals placed defensive end Kerry Wynn in concussion protocol. Tyler Dragon, Cincinnati.com, "Rough Week 2 for both Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers," 15 Sep. 2019 Maxx Crosby: The Raiders’ rookie defensive end drew a personal foul for putting his full weight on Mahomes after a short pass which was sniffed out by Trayvon Mullen for a short game. Jerry Mcdonald, The Mercury News, "Chiefs-Raiders: Studs and duds at halftime," 15 Sep. 2019 The senior defensive end made a highlight-reel play out of a fairly routine quarterback hurry during the Warriors’ 31-24 double-overtime road loss to Rolling Meadows on Friday night. Steve Reaven, chicagotribune.com, "Colin Ward gives Deerfield a powerful presence on the defensive line," 15 Sep. 2019 Miller said that coaching a core group for so long has also allowed his staff to challenge the team by adding more complex strategies on the defensive end. Alexa Philippou, courant.com, "How the Sun’s commitment to a core group of players helped them become one of the best teams in the WNBA — and within reach of a championship," 15 Sep. 2019 It is believed he was injured on a deep pass downfield that resulted in a defensive pass interference call. Tom Green | Tgreen@al.com, al, "Auburn wide receiver Will Hastings will play against Tulane," 5 Sep. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The 25-year-old from France has rapturous groundstrokes and is equally efficient when forced on the defensive. Vanja Lakic, SI.com, "Sofia Kenin and David Goffin Among Sleepers to Watch at Wimbledon," 29 June 2019 Tevin Griffey is a defensive back for DP and recovered the onside kick. Lucas Casas, orlandosentinel.com, "Dr. Phillips stops 2-point try to beat Boone," 14 Sep. 2019 Minkins, meanwhile, played multiple positions — wide receiver, kick returner and defensive back — for the Bruins that season. David J. Kim, The Courier-Journal, "Preview of the future: UK commit Izayah Cummings vs. U of L commit Josh Minkins," 31 Aug. 2019 Skip to main content At a news conference after House Judiciary Committee approved guidelines for impeachment hearings on President Donald Trump, Pelosi was on the defensive. Jeanine Santucci, USA TODAY, "Donald Trump says Democrats should look into Barack and Michelle Obama's books, Netflix deals," 17 Sep. 2019 Their popularity has opened a deep rift in Germany, with SUV owners put on the defensive by opponents who say the vehicles are an affront to national values of practicality and environmental awareness. Los Angeles Times, "SUVs have made a startling rise in Germany. Now comes the backlash," 14 Sep. 2019 By many accounts, the Nigerian military is demoralized and on the defensive. Dionne Searcey, New York Times, "Boko Haram Is Back. With Better Drones.," 13 Sep. 2019 Trump’s best shot at getting a wall therefore came in early 2018, when Senate Democrats were on the defensive. Ramesh Ponnuru, National Review, "What’s Next for the GOP on Immigration?," 12 Sep. 2019 Klobuchar was also put on the defensive during the debate, specifically about her record as a Hennepin County prosecutor. Ryan Faircloth, Twin Cities, "Klobuchar slams ‘Medicare-for-all,’ defends her prosecutor record," 12 Sep. 2019

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

5 Nov 2019

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
How to pronounce defensive (audio) How to pronounce defensive (audio)

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 How to pronounce defensive (audio) \

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 How to pronounce defensive (audio) , ˈdē-ˌ How to pronounce defensive (audio) \

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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