\ ˈman-tə-ˈman How to pronounce man-to-man (audio) \

Definition of man-to-man

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : characterized by frankness and honesty usually used of a discussion between two men a man-to-man talk
2 : of, relating to, or being a system of defense (as in football or basketball) in which each defensive player guards a specified opponent He had taken man-to-man defense to a new level of sophistication …— John Feinstein The Packers under Lombardi were just about a pure man-to-man defensive team.— Paul Zimmerman



Definition of man-to-man (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a frank discussion especially between two men : a man-to-man talk had a man-to-man with a friend about his problems She [Vermont DOC consultant Kathleen Patten] believes conversations between victims and offenders can offset the sometimes-harmful separation the two sides experience during legal proceedings. "The court experience is really tough for people," she says. "A man-to-man isn't allowed. …"— Cathy Resmer
2 : a system of defense (as in football or basketball) in which each defensive player guards a specified opponent : man-to-man defense [Lathan] Ransom is an aggressive run defender from the safety position, and he also does a good job as a free-roaming safety in pass coverage. He's great in zone coverage on defense, but he can also play some man-to-man out on the perimeter.— Nathanael Rutherford

Other Words from man-to-man


man-to-man or less commonly man to man adverb
Let's be reasonable and discuss this man-to-man. Strongmen bring a distinct style to international diplomacy. They tend to want to sort things out man-to-man, rather than relying on institutions or international law. — Gideon Rachman After employing a zone defense in recent games, the Bruins came out playing man-to-man and it paid dividends. — Beth Harris

First Known Use of man-to-man


1902, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1942, in the meaning defined at sense 2

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Time Traveler for man-to-man

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The first known use of man-to-man was in 1902

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Cite this Entry

“Man-to-man.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Jul. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of man-to-man

: happening between two men
chiefly US, sports : of or relating to a way of playing defense in football, basketball, etc., in which each player on the defense is supposed to stop a particular player on the offense


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