noun of·fense \ ə-ˈfen(t)s , especially for sense 3 ˈä-ˌfen(t)s , ˈȯ- \
variants: or offence
|Updated on: 16 Jul 2018

Definition of offense

1 a 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.
3 a : 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
4 a : 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
5 a : 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


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

Examples of offense in a Sentence

  1. He was found guilty and fined 0 for each offense.

  2. Penalties for a first offense range from fines to jail time.

  3. Our team has the best offense in the league.

  4. The quarterback directs the offense.

  5. The team needs some work on its offense.

  6. The team plays good offense.

Recent Examples of offense from the Web

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.

Origin and Etymology of 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").

Synonym Discussion of 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

OFFENSE Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of offense for English Language Learners

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

  • : something that is wrong or improper

  • : a criminal act

OFFENSE Defined for Kids


noun of·fense
variants: or offence \ə-ˈfens\

Definition of offense for Students

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

Law Dictionary


noun of·fense
variants: or offence play \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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to beat or defeat soundly

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