[uh-fen-siv or for 4, 5, aw-fen-, of-en-]



the position or attitude of aggression or attack: to take the offensive.
an aggressive movement or attack: a carefully planned naval offensive.

Origin of offensive

1540–50; < Medieval Latin offēnsīvus, equivalent to Latin offēns(us) past participle of offendere (see offend) + -īvus -ive
Related formsof·fen·sive·ly, adverbof·fen·sive·ness, nounnon·of·fen·sive, adjectivenon·of·fen·sive·ly, adverbnon·of·fen·sive·ness, nouno·ver·of·fen·sive, adjectiveo·ver·of·fen·sive·ly, adverbo·ver·of·fen·sive·ness, nounpre·of·fen·sive, adjectivepre·of·fen·sive·ly, adverbpre·of·fen·sive·ness, nounqua·si-of·fen·sive, adjectivequa·si-of·fen·sive·ly, adverbsu·per·of·fen·sive, adjective, nounsu·per·of·fen·sive·ly, adverbsu·per·of·fen·sive·ness, nounun·of·fen·sive, adjectiveun·of·fen·sive·ly, adverbun·of·fen·sive·ness, noun

Synonyms for offensive

1. displeasing, vexatious, vexing, unpleasant. See hateful. 2, 3. distasteful, disgusting, revolting, repellent. 3. repulsive, shocking. 4. invading, attacking.

Usage note

The label Offensive is used in this dictionary to indicate that a particular term or definition is likely to be perceived as insulting by a listener or reader—an affront to that particular individual or to an entire group of like individuals—whether or not an offense was intended. Offensive is often paired with the label Disparaging used to indicate that those people who use the offensive term do so to offend intentionally.

Antonyms for offensive

1, 2. pleasing. 4. defensive. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for offensive

Contemporary Examples of offensive

Historical Examples of offensive

British Dictionary definitions for offensive



unpleasant or disgusting, as to the senses
causing anger or annoyance; insulting
for the purpose of attack rather than defence


the offensive an attitude or position of aggression
an assault, attack, or military initiative, esp a strategic one
Derived Formsoffensively, adverboffensiveness, 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 offensive

"attacking" (1540s), "insulting" (1570s), both from Middle French offensif (16c.) and directly from Medieval Latin offensivus, from Latin offens-, past participle stem of offendere "offend" (see offend). Related: Offensively; offensiveness.


"condition of attacking, aggressive action," 1720, from offensive (adj.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper