[dih-fens or especially for 7, 9, dee-fens]


verb (used with object), de·fensed, de·fens·ing.

Sports. to defend against (an opponent, play, or tactic).

Also especially British, defence.

Origin of defense

1250–1300; Middle English < Old French < Late Latin dēfēnsa a forbidding, noun use of feminine of past participle of Latin dēfendere to defend; replacing Middle English defens < Anglo-French, Old French < Medieval Latin defēnsum (thing) forbidden, neuter past participle of Latin dēfendere
Related formsde·fense·less, adjectivede·fense·less·ly, adverbde·fense·less·ness, nounnon·de·fense, noun, adjectivepre·de·fense, nounun·de·fensed, adjective

Synonyms for defense Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for defenseless

Contemporary Examples of defenseless

Historical Examples of defenseless

  • And all this had to come through their defenseless interpreter—me.

    The Harbor

    Ernest Poole

  • That meant they knew where Earth was, and how defenseless the planet was to their form of attack.

    The Hour of Battle

    Robert Sheckley

  • I shouldn't say that shooting a defenseless man answers that requirement.

    The Vagrant Duke

    George Gibbs

  • But in his eyes there was no look of the defenseless: only a light of passionate contempt.

  • "You're a coward, to strike a defenseless man," said Mr. Baxter contemptuously.

Word Origin and History for defenseless

also defenceless, 1520s, from defense + -less. Related: Defenselessly.



c.1300, "forbidding, prohibition," also "action of guarding or protecting," from Old French defense, from Latin defensus, past participle of defendere "ward off, protect" (see defend). But it also arrived (without the final -e) from Old French defens, from Latin defensum "thing protected or forbidden," neuter past participle of defendere.

Defens was assimilated into defense, but not before it inspired the alternative spelling defence, via the same tendency that produced hence (hennis), pence (penies), dunce (Duns). First used 1935 as a euphemism for "national military resources." Defense mechanism in psychology is from 1913.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for defenseless




A means or method that helps protect the body or mind, as against disease or anxiety.
Related formsde•fensive (-fĕnsĭv) adj.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.