[ dih-fen-siv ]
See synonyms for defensive on
  1. serving to defend; protective: defensive armament.

  2. made or carried on for the purpose of resisting attack: defensive treaty;a defensive attitude.

  1. of or relating to defense.

  2. (of stocks, securities, etc.)

    • 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.

    • considered stable and relatively safe for investment, especially during a decline in the economy.

  3. excessively concerned with guarding against the real or imagined threat of criticism, injury to one's ego, or exposure of one's shortcomings.

  1. a position or attitude of defense: to be on the defensive about one's mistakes.

  2. Obsolete. something that serves to defend.

Origin of defensive

First recorded in 1350–1400; from Medieval Latin dēfēnsīvus (see defense, -ive); replacing Middle English defensif, from Middle French, from Medieval Latin, as above

Other words from defensive

  • de·fen·sive·ly, adverb
  • de·fen·sive·ness, noun
  • non·de·fen·sive, adjective
  • non·de·fen·sive·ly, adverb
  • o·ver·de·fen·sive, adjective
  • o·ver·de·fen·sive·ly, adverb
  • sem·i·de·fen·sive, adjective
  • sem·i·de·fen·sive·ly, adverb
  • un·de·fen·sive, adjective
  • un·de·fen·sive·ly, adverb

Words Nearby defensive Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use defensive in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for defensive


/ (dɪˈfɛnsɪv) /

  1. intended, suitable, or done for defence, as opposed to offence

  2. rejecting criticisms of oneself or covering up one's failings

  1. a position of defence

  2. on the defensive in an attitude or position of defence, as in being ready to reject criticism

Derived forms of defensive

  • 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

Other Idioms and Phrases with defensive


see on the defensive.

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