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: characterized by frankness and honesty
usually used of a discussion between two men
a man-to-man talk
: 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
man-to-man adverb
or less commonly man to man
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


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: 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
: 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

Examples of man-to-man in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
But with a lackluster supporting cast around that duo, the Chiefs prefer to face man-to-man defenses (often stemming from a blitz) than zone looks. Dieter Kurtenbach, The Mercury News, 10 Feb. 2024 During the last three games, the Heat has posted a defensive rating of 106.5 points allowed per 100 possessions while toggling more frequently between its man-to-man and zone schemes. Anthony Chiang, Miami Herald, 5 Feb. 2024 Miami appeared to tighten things up against Sacramento, throwing a mix of zone and regular man-to-man defenses at Fox and Co., who indicated afterwards his team’s offensive issues were as simple as missing shots. Chris Biderman, Sacramento Bee, 1 Feb. 2024 Self, who preaches aggressive man-to-man defense, was asked to describe his feelings at halftime in a 51-51 shootout. Gary Bedore, Kansas City Star, 21 Jan. 2024 In a battle for first place in the Baseline League, Etiwanda made clutch three-point shots while relying on its man-to-man defense to knock off Damien 49-39 on its home court Thursday night. Eric Sondheimer, Los Angeles Times, 19 Jan. 2024 Against the Cowboys, who play a chaotic, six-defensive-back, man-to-man defense, the Packers’ approach was perfect. Dieter Kurtenbach, The Mercury News, 19 Jan. 2024 Portland going from zone to man-to-man switching a factor? Devin Booker remains aggressive — 22 shot attempts — and looking and feeling better physically. Duane Rankin, The Arizona Republic, 15 Jan. 2024 Going to an aggressive man-to-man defense and making an assertive effort to get the ball to Foster proved beneficial. Glenn Graham, Baltimore Sun, 13 Jan. 2024
And when Musketeers coach Sean Miller traded out a man-to-man defense for a zone, the Longhorns began to pound the ball to Bishop in the paint. Dave Skretta, Chron, 24 Mar. 2023 Playing predominantly in-your-grill, man-to-man D, the Toreros limited UCI to 29.9 percent shooting, 20 of 67. Don Norcross, San Diego Union-Tribune, 20 Mar. 2023 Alabama played a tight man-to-man, converging on the rim whenever a black jersey would drive toward it. Nick Alvarez |, al, 11 Mar. 2023 Besides its physical man-to-man defense, Iowa State pounded the boards, outrebounding Baylor 44-17. Chuck Carlton, Dallas News, 9 Mar. 2023 Recap:Grand Canyon falls flat in home basketball finale in loss to Seattle U This time, the Lopes got down 21-7 out of zone defense, then recovered, after shifting to a man-to-man. Richard Obert, The Arizona Republic, 2 Mar. 2023 The teams engaged at a breakneck pace the rest of the way as the Panthers oscillated between the trap and man-to-man press the length of the floor. Journal Sentinel, 24 Feb. 2023 Historical moment:Hank Foster was Butler's first Black player DePaul adjusts on defense, Butler's offense counters DePaul started in an aggressive man-to-man defense, denying everything. Akeem Glaspie, The Indianapolis Star, 23 Feb. 2023 In order to shake things up, Burke coach Sean Ryan went to a man-to-man defense, a rare move from a team with limited depth that typically plays zone. Nate Weitzer,, 23 Feb. 2023 See More

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

Word History

First Known Use


1902, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1942, in the meaning defined at sense 2

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

Dictionary Entries Near man-to-man

Cite this Entry

“Man-to-man.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Feb. 2024.

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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