[ self-di-fens, self- ]
/ ˈsɛlf dɪˈfɛns, ˌsɛlf- /


the act of defending one's person when physically attacked, as by countering blows or overcoming an assailant: the art of self-defense.
a claim or plea that the use of force or injuring or killing another was necessary in defending one's own person from physical attack: He shot the man who was trying to stab him and pleaded self-defense at the murder trial.
an act or instance of defending or protecting one's own interests, property, ideas, etc., as by argument or strategy.

Nearby words

  1. self-deceived,
  2. self-deceiving,
  3. self-deception,
  4. self-defeating,
  5. self-defence,
  6. self-deliverance,
  7. self-deluded,
  8. self-delusion,
  9. self-denial,
  10. self-denying

Also especially British, self-de·fence.

Origin of self-defense

First recorded in 1645–55

Related formsself-de·fen·sive, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for self-defense

Word Origin and History for self-defense



1650s, "act of defending oneself," first attested in Hobbes, from self- + defense. In sports sense, first with reference to fencing (1728), then boxing (1820s).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper