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[dih-fen-siv] /dɪˈfɛn sɪv/
serving to defend; protective:
defensive armament.
made or carried on for the purpose of resisting attack:
defensive treaty; a defensive attitude.
of or relating to defense.
  1. able to provide moderately steady growth with minimal risk:
    The bank has put a large percentage of its assets in defensive rather than growth stocks.
  2. considered stable and relatively safe for investment, especially during a decline in the economy.
excessively concerned with guarding against the real or imagined threat of criticism, injury to one's ego, or exposure of one's shortcomings.
a position or attitude of defense:
to be on the defensive about one's mistakes.
Obsolete. something that serves to defend.
Origin of defensive
1350-1400; < Medieval Latin dēfēnsīvus (see defense, -ive); replacing Middle English defensif < Middle French < Medieval Latin, as above
Related forms
defensively, adverb
defensiveness, noun
nondefensive, adjective
nondefensively, adverb
nondefensiveness, noun
overdefensive, adjective
overdefensively, adverb
overdefensiveness, noun
semidefensive, adjective
semidefensively, adverb
semidefensiveness, noun
undefensive, adjective
undefensively, adverb
undefensiveness, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for defensively
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • "Well, that happened a good while ago," said Taterleg defensively.

  • defensively he crouched, yet the next instant he was overthrown.

    The Trail of '98

    Robert W. Service
  • The other eyed her defensively and she tried to tidy her hair with hands that shook.

    Jane Journeys On Ruth Comfort Mitchell
  • "They're very kind among themselves," Paula said defensively.

    The Stars, My Brothers Edmond Hamilton
  • defensively, too, had the rider of the maherry an advantage over his antagonists.

    The Boy Slaves Mayne Reid
British Dictionary definitions for defensively


intended, suitable, or done for defence, as opposed to offence
rejecting criticisms of oneself or covering up one's failings
a position of defence
on the defensive, in an attitude or position of defence, as in being ready to reject criticism
Derived Forms
defensively, adverb
defensiveness, noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for defensively


c.1400 (adj. and noun), from French défensif (14c.), from Medieval Latin defensivus, from defens-, past participle stem of Latin defendere (see defend). Of persons, "alert to reject criticism," from 1919. Related: Defensively; defensiveness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Idioms and Phrases with defensively


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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