• synonyms


[self-di-fens, self-]
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  1. the act of defending one's person when physically attacked, as by countering blows or overcoming an assailant: the art of self-defense.
  2. 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.
  3. an act or instance of defending or protecting one's own interests, property, ideas, etc., as by argument or strategy.
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Also especially British, self-de·fence.

Origin of self-defense

First recorded in 1645–55
Related formsself-de·fen·sive, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for self-defense

shelter, preservation, stability, conservation, safety, security, safeguard, insurance, shield, armament, guard, defense, aegis, surety, tutelage, custody, safekeeping, armor, fix, camouflage

Examples from the Web for self-defense

Contemporary Examples of self-defense

Historical Examples of 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).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper