of·​fense ə-ˈfen(t)s How to pronounce offense (audio)
especially for sense 3
ˈä-ˌfen(t)s How to pronounce offense (audio)
variants or offence
: something that outrages the moral or physical senses
His conduct is an offense to public decency.
Such screaming is an offense to my ears.
: the act of displeasing or affronting
no offense intended and none taken, I hope
: the state of being insulted or morally outraged
takes offense at the slightest criticism
we ought not … to give offense by sexist words or phrasesJ. J. Kilpatrick
: the offensive team or members of a team playing offensive positions
The stronger offense won the game.
: the means or method of attacking or of attempting to score
The quarterback's passing success was the team's edge in offense.
: scoring ability
: the act of attacking : assault
weapons of offense
: an infraction of law
was stopped by the police for a traffic offense
especially : misdemeanor
had a record of petty offenses
: a breach of a moral or social code : sin, misdeed
was tolerant of his youthful offenses
archaic : a cause or occasion of sin : stumbling block
obsolete : an act of stumbling
ə-ˈfen(t)s-ləs How to pronounce offense (audio)
 especially for sense 3  ˈä-ˌfen(t)s-
Choose the Right Synonym for offense

offense, resentment, umbrage, pique, dudgeon, huff mean an emotional response to or an emotional state resulting from a slight or indignity.

offense implies hurt displeasure.

takes deep offense at racial slurs

resentment suggests lasting indignation or ill will.

harbored a lifelong resentment of his brother

umbrage may suggest hurt pride, resentment, or suspicion of another's motives.

took umbrage at the offer of advice

pique applies to a transient feeling of wounded vanity.

in a pique I foolishly declined the invitation

dudgeon suggests an angry fit of indignation.

stormed out of the meeting in high dudgeon

huff implies a peevish short-lived spell of anger usually at a petty cause.

in a huff he slammed the door

offense, sin, vice, crime, scandal mean a transgression of law.

offense applies to the infraction of any law, rule, or code.

at that school no offense went unpunished

sin implies an offense against moral or religious law.

the sin of blasphemy

vice applies to a habit or practice that degrades or corrupts.

regarded gambling as a vice

crime implies a serious offense punishable by the law of the state.

the crime of murder

scandal applies to an offense that outrages the public conscience.

a career ruined by a sex scandal

Examples of offense in a Sentence

He was found guilty and fined $250 for each offense. Penalties for a first offense range from fines to jail time. Our team has the best offense in the league. The quarterback directs the offense. The team needs some work on its offense. The team plays good offense. See More
Recent Examples on the Web Bendix might wind up trading one of those pitchers this winter to bolster an offense that was 26th in the major leagues in 2023 with an average of 4.11 runs a game. John Perrotto, Forbes, 30 Nov. 2023 In October, prosecutors hit Santos with an additional 10 counts that accused him of conspiracy to commit offenses against the U.S., wire fraud, making false statements to the Federal Election Commission, falsifying records, aggravated identity theft and access device fraud. Caitlin Yilek, CBS News, 30 Nov. 2023 But the fan base grew first weary and then bored with a program that did not finish higher than 76th in the nation in scoring offense the past six years and was ranked lower than 100th in four of those seasons. Kirk Kenney, San Diego Union-Tribune, 30 Nov. 2023 According to court records, Talavera pleaded guilty to the theft of the trailer and a misdemeanor offense for the knife. Salvador Hernandez, Los Angeles Times, 29 Nov. 2023 Soccer referees currently have the power to call fouls and dish out yellows for egregious offenses or red cards for the worst behavior that warrants immediate expulsion and shorthanded play for the offender's team for the rest of the game. David K. Li, NBC News, 29 Nov. 2023 The Aggies ranked eighth in the SEC in total offense, 10th in rushing, sixth in passing, fifth in scoring and eighth in passing efficiency with Petrino as offensive coordinator. Tom Murphy,, 29 Nov. 2023 An attorney for the U.S. Solicitor General's Office argued in favor of incorporating the drug schedules that were in effect at the time of the original state drug offenses. Kaelan Deese, Washington Examiner, 27 Nov. 2023 That defendant, Eugene Jackson, committed, among other things, cocaine offenses in Florida in 1998 and 2004. Adam Liptak, New York Times, 27 Nov. 2023 See More

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

Word History


Middle English offence, offense "assault, breach of law, causing of displeasure," borrowed from Anglo-French offense, borrowed from Latin offensa "encounter with an obstacle, injury, wrong," noun derivative from feminine of offensus, past participle of offendere "to strike against, break a rule, displease" — more at offend

Note: The English senses "act of stumbling, stumbling block" are dependent on the Biblical passage "a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense" (Isaiah 8:14, 1 Peter 2:8 in the Authorized/King James Version), itself dependent on the literal sense "stumble upon" of Latin offendere and its derivatives (cf. Vulgate "lapis offensionis et petra scandali").

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 5b

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

Dictionary Entries Near offense

Cite this Entry

“Offense.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


variants or offence
ə-ˈfen(t)s How to pronounce offense (audio)
especially for sense 2
ˈäf-ˌen(t)s How to pronounce offense (audio)
: something that offends
: an act of attacking : assault
: the method of attacking or attempting to score in a game or contest
: the side that is attempting to score
: the act of offending
I meant no offense
: the state of being offended
takes offense at any criticism
: a violation of a social or moral code
: a breaking of the law

Legal Definition


variants or offence
: a violation of the law
especially : a criminal act
nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy U.S. Constitution amend. V
see also lesser included offense
in the civil law of Louisiana : an intentional unlawful act that causes damage to another and for which the law imposes an obligation for damages compare quasi contract at contract, quasi-offense

Note: Breach of contract, offenses, quasi-offenses, and quasi contracts are the bases for civil liability under Louisiana civil law. Offenses and quasi-offenses are comparable to common-law torts.

More from Merriam-Webster on offense

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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