of·fense | \ ə-ˈfen(t)s , especially for sense 3 ˈä-ˌfen(t)s , ˈȯ- \
variants: or offence

Definition of offense 

1a obsolete : an act of stumbling

b archaic : a cause or occasion of sin : stumbling block

2 : something that outrages the moral or physical senses His conduct is an offense to public decency. Such screaming is an offense to my ears.

3a : the act of attacking : assault weapons of offense

b : the means or method of attacking or of attempting to score The quarterback's passing success was the team's edge in offense.

c : the offensive team or members of a team playing offensive positions The stronger offense won the game.

d : scoring ability

4a : the act of displeasing or affronting no offense intended and none taken, I hope

b : the state of being insulted or morally outraged takes offense at the slightest criticism we ought not … to give offense by sexist words or phrases —J. J. Kilpatrick

5a : a breach of a moral or social code : sin, misdeed was tolerant of his youthful offenses

b : an infraction of law was stopped by the police for a traffic offense especially : misdemeanor had a record of petty offenses

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Other words from offense

offenseless \ə-ˈfen(t)s-ləs, especially for sense 3ˈä-ˌfen(t)s-, ˈȯ- \ adjective

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.
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Recent Examples on the Web

The newness of this position to the Bears — and its recent success with the Chiefs and three-time Pro Bowler Travis Kelce — adds layers of intrigue and excitement to the identity the Bears offense is forming. Rich Campbell,, "Had to be 'U': Tight end Trey Burton's transformative position in the Bears offense," 13 July 2018 These questions need to be answered: How different will the offense be under Murray? Paul Myerberg, USA TODAY, "Oklahoma's still the team to beat in the Big 12," 9 July 2018 Milwaukee's offense, meanwhile, was non-existent after the first. Todd Rosiak, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Braves 5, Brewers 1: Offense has no answer for Anibal Sánchez," 7 July 2018 Japan’s offense is definitely more potent with this lineup. Tariq Panja, New York Times, "World Cup 2018: Belgium Shocks Japan With Stunning Rally," 4 July 2018 Curry's most obvious offense is being married to Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry. Thomas Leavy, CBS News, "Ayesha Curry's restaurant slammed by Rockets fans on Yelp before it even opens," 21 June 2018 The offense has been decent during that stretch, averaging 3.9 runs per game, but the pitching staff has posted a 4.50 ERA. Nick Piecoro, azcentral, "Game Day: Diamondbacks travel to Pittsburgh to face Pirates," 20 June 2018 The nation’s top offense is imposing enough without compelling those bats to seek vengeance. Nick Moyle, San Antonio Express-News, "Texas drops first game in Super Regional," 9 June 2018 Bucks fans are hoping that Lopez provides the same type of offense and clutch shots next season. Jeff Maillet, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Remember when Brook Lopez knocked Marquette out of the NCAA Tournament?," 13 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'offense.' 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 offense

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for offense

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").

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Statistics for offense

Last Updated

10 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for offense

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

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More Definitions for offense



English Language Learners Definition of offense

: something that causes a person to be hurt, angry, or upset

: something that is wrong or improper

: a criminal act


variants: or offence \ə-ˈfens \

Kids Definition of offense

1 : something done that hurts feelings or insults

3 : the act of hurting feelings or insulting

4 : a team or the part of a team that attempts to score in a game

5 : an act of attacking : assault


variants: or offence \ə-ˈfens \

Legal Definition of offense 

1 : 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

2 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.

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Comments on offense

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to make amends

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