[uh-fen-siv or for 4, 5, aw-fen-, of-en-]
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  1. causing resentful displeasure; highly irritating, angering, or annoying: offensive television commercials.
  2. unpleasant or disagreeable to the sense: an offensive odor.
  3. repugnant to the moral sense, good taste, or the like; insulting: an offensive remark; an offensive joke.
  4. pertaining to offense or attack: the offensive movements of their troops.
  5. characterized by attack; aggressive: offensive warfare.
  1. the position or attitude of aggression or attack: to take the offensive.
  2. 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

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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. 2018

Examples from the Web for offensiveness

Contemporary Examples of offensiveness

Historical Examples of offensiveness

  • "Nay, that is no answer," he cried, overlooking my offensiveness.

    The Shame of Motley

    Raphael Sabatini

  • Lastly he turned to me to complete this gross work of offensiveness.

    The Strolling Saint

    Raphael Sabatini

  • But the English, when translated, was bald and blunt to the verge of offensiveness.

  • But it was the Baby who saw what was to be done if his parent was to be delivered from his own offensiveness.

    The Creators

    May Sinclair

  • You must apologize for its offensiveness, or you will be arrested, sir.

British Dictionary definitions for offensiveness


  1. unpleasant or disgusting, as to the senses
  2. causing anger or annoyance; insulting
  3. for the purpose of attack rather than defence
  1. the offensive an attitude or position of aggression
  2. 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 offensiveness



"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