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 formsde·fen·sive·ly, adverbde·fen·sive·ness, nounnon·de·fen·sive, adjectivenon·de·fen·sive·ly, adverbnon·de·fen·sive·ness, nouno·ver·de·fen·sive, adjectiveo·ver·de·fen·sive·ly, adverbo·ver·de·fen·sive·ness, nounsem·i·de·fen·sive, adjectivesem·i·de·fen·sive·ly, adverbsem·i·de·fen·sive·ness, nounun·de·fen·sive, adjectiveun·de·fen·sive·ly, adverbun·de·fen·sive·ness, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for defensively

Contemporary Examples of defensively

Historical Examples of defensively

  • "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 Formsdefensively, adverbdefensiveness, 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

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

Idioms and Phrases with defensively


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.