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Alternative forms[edit]


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.
  3. An argument in support or justification of something.
  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,[2]
      [] 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 notes[edit]

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



Derived terms[edit]



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.