Alternative formsEdit


From Middle English defens, defense, from Old French defens, defense, from Latin dēfensa (protection).



defence (countable and uncountable, plural defences) (British spelling)

  1. The action of defending, of protecting from attack, danger or injury.
  2. Something used to oppose attacks.
    • 1609, William Shakespeare, Sonnet 12,[2]
      And nothing ’gainst Time’s scythe can make defence
      Save breed, to brave him when he takes thee hence.
  3. An argument in support or justification of something.
    • 1609, William Shakespeare, Sonnet 89,[3]
      Speak of my lameness, and I straight will halt,
      Against thy reasons making no defence.
    • 2016 June 11, Phil McNulty, “England 1-1 Russia”, in BBC Sport[4]:
      In Hodgson's defence, it must be stated that in large parts this was a vibrant, energetic performance with the emphasis almost exclusively on attack.
  4. (team sports) A strategy and tactics employed to prevent the other team from scoring; contrasted with offence.
  5. (team sports) The portion of a team dedicated to preventing the other team from scoring; contrasted with offence.
  6. Government policy or (infra)structure related to the military.
    Department of Defence
  7. (obsolete) Prohibition; a prohibitory ordinance.
    • 1673, William Temple, “An Essay upon the Advancement of Trade in Ireland” in Miscellanea, London: Edw[ard] Gellibrand, 1680, p. 116,[5]
      [] severe defences may be made against weaving any Linnen under a certain breadth, such as may be of better use to the poorest People []



Usage notesEdit

The noun spelling is mainly used in the UK, Australia, Canada, Ireland, and New Zealand, defense is more commonly used in America.

Derived termsEdit



defence (third-person singular simple present defences, present participle defencing, simple past and past participle defenced)

  1. (obsolete, transitive) To furnish with defences; to fortify.
    • 1656, John Hales, Dixi Custodiam
      Better manned and more strongly defenced.