[dih-fen-duh nt or especially in court for 1, -dant]


Law. a person, company, etc., against whom a claim or charge is brought in a court (opposed to plaintiff).
Obsolete. defender.


making one's defense; defending: a defendant corporation.
Obsolete. defensive.

Origin of defendant

1275–1325; Middle English defendaunt < Anglo-French (Middle French, Old French defendant). See defend, -ant
Related formsnon·de·fend·ant, nounun·de·fend·ant, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for defendant

Contemporary Examples of defendant

Historical Examples of defendant

  • In all this Eleazer had the air of conducting the case for the defendant.

  • And you, Cabasse, have you nothing to say either for or against the defendant?

    The Downfall

    Emile Zola

  • Rufus Choate represented the defendant and Daniel Webster the plaintiff.

    The Age of Invention

    Holland Thompson

  • The witness remembered how at the inquiry the defendant Ray had defended his accomplice.

  • Then tell the court how you came to identify the defendant as Drayton.

    A Son of Hagar

    Sir Hall Caine

British Dictionary definitions for defendant



a person against whom an action or claim is brought in a court of lawCompare plaintiff


making a defence; defending
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

Word Origin and History for defendant

c.1400, in the legal sense, from French défendant, present participle of défendre (see defend). Earliest use in English was as a present participle adjective meaning "defending" (c.1300).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Culture definitions for defendant


The party that is being sued in court. (Compare plaintiff.)

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.