self-pro·​tec·​tive ˌself-prə-ˈtek-tiv How to pronounce self-protective (audio)
: serving or tending to protect oneself
self-protective instincts/behaviors
a self-protective reaction
taking self-protective measures
Doubtless, previous relationships play a role in your evaluating how much self-protective distancing you may need to connect comfortably with another.Leon F. Seltzer
self-protectiveness noun
… counselors often develop an intuitive feeling about traumatized individuals—a sixth sense about the client's fears, terror, feelings of being threatened and resulting self-protectiveness. Lynne Shallcross

Examples of self-protective in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web During these years, Foster cultivated a reputation for being aloof and self-protective. Jordan Kisner, The Atlantic, 18 Feb. 2024 With Elizabeth, Melton recoils and maintains a self-protective position. David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter, 6 Dec. 2023 The self-protective urge to pull away at this stage of parenting can be strong. Meagan Francis, Washington Post, 5 Oct. 2023 What impresses an American observer is the ferocity with which the British have resisted the posturing of self-protective bigwigs. Alex Ross, The New Yorker, 25 Sep. 2023 For self-protective reasons, and out of genuine concern about equity, admissions officers would prefer to increase the number of men who are applying to their colleges, rather than favoring male applicants in the final round of selection. Susan Dominus, New York Times, 8 Sep. 2023 On one hand, Duncan has learned to be self-protective about his most earnest side. John Williams, Washington Post, 7 Aug. 2023 After data have been collected, study participants will be surveyed for insights on how the messaging influenced their self-protective actions and help-seeking behaviors. Terri Adams-Fuller, Scientific American, 15 June 2023 Instead of providing the right only in the home, the law created a sort of mobile self-protective bubble, said Mr. Mitchell, the law professor. Adeel Hassan, New York Times, 19 Apr. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'self-protective.' 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

1829, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of self-protective was in 1829

Dictionary Entries Near self-protective

Cite this Entry

“Self-protective.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


: serving or tending to protect oneself
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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