defensive

1 of 2

adjective

de·​fen·​sive di-ˈfen(t)-siv How to pronounce defensive (audio) ˈdē-ˌfen(t)- How to pronounce defensive (audio)
1
: serving to defend or protect
defensive fortifications
2
a
: 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
defensively adverb
defensiveness noun

defensive

2 of 2

noun

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

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
Recent Examples on the Web
Adjective
Zimmer was an assistant coach in Dallas from 1994-2006, including the last seven seasons a defensive coordinator. Clarence E. Hill Jr., Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 17 May 2024 Brinkley coached Harbor’s football team for 32 years and reached a CIF championship game eight times with three section titles, and Chalmers served many roles, including as defensive coordinator. Richard Dunn, Orange County Register, 16 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for defensive 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'defensive.' 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

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

First Known Use

Adjective

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun

circa 1585, in the meaning defined above

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

Dictionary Entries Near defensive

Cite this Entry

“Defensive.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/defensive. Accessed 30 May. 2024.

Kids Definition

defensive

1 of 2 adjective
de·​fen·​sive di-ˈfen(t)-siv How to pronounce defensive (audio) ˈdē-ˌfen(t)- How to pronounce defensive (audio)
1
: serving or intended to defend or protect
a defensive alliance
2
: resisting or preventing attack
defensive behavior
3
: of or relating to the attempt to keep an opponent from scoring in a game or contest
a player with good defensive skills
defensively adverb
defensiveness noun

defensive

2 of 2 noun
: a defensive position
put on the defensive by an attack

Medical Definition

defensive

adjective
de·​fen·​sive di-ˈfen(t)-siv How to pronounce defensive (audio) ˈdē-ˌ How to pronounce defensive (audio)
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
defensively adverb
defensiveness noun

Legal Definition

defensive

adjective
de·​fen·​sive
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 attemptBarbara Franklin
defensively adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on defensive

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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