[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

Related Words for offensively

brutally, annoyingly, indecently, awfully, badly, shamefully

Examples from the Web for offensively

Contemporary Examples of offensively

  • It was defined by its offensively high price, pretentious waiting lists and limited edition variations.

  • Jace Lacob on where the Fox musical-comedy has gone horribly, offensively wrong.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Why I Loathe Glee

    Jace Lacob

    September 29, 2010

  • And few complain when offensively small briefs are worn by hot male models.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Ban the Speedo!

    Sean Macaulay

    October 5, 2009

Historical Examples of offensively

  • Wilding shrugged and smiled; Grey's eye was offensively upon him.

    Mistress Wilding

    Rafael Sabatini

  • At first she was made much of, in an offensively patronising manner.


    Joseph Conrad

  • He contrived to say it so offensively that Jumbo flushed with anger.

    Oh, You Tex!

    William Macleod Raine

  • He struck me as a dapper man, noticeably, but not offensively, self-satisfied.

  • "That is posterity's look-out," said Hamilton, offensively; but Bones ignored the rudeness.


    Edgar Wallace

British Dictionary definitions for offensively



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 offensively



"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