from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Intended or appropriate for defending; protective.
  • adj. Intended to withstand or deter aggression or attack: a defensive weapons system; defensive behavior.
  • adj. Of or relating to the effort to prevent an opponent from gaining points in a game or athletic contest.
  • adj. Performed so as to avoid risk, danger, or legal liability: defensive driving; defensive medicine,
  • adj. Of or relating to defense.
  • adj. Psychology Constantly protecting oneself from criticism, exposure of one's shortcomings, or other real or perceived threats to the ego.
  • n. A means of defense.
  • n. An attitude or position of defense.
  • idiom on the defensive Prepared to withstand or counter aggression or attack.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Intended for defence; protective
  • adj. Intended to deter attack
  • adj. Performed so as to minimise risk
  • adj. Displaying an inordinate sensitivity to criticism; compare paranoid
  • adj. Of a bowling or fielding tactic designed to prevent the other side from scoring runs.; of a batting tactic designed to prevent being out.
  • adj. pertaining to defense, as opposed to attack.
  • n. A means, attitude or position of defense.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Serving to defend or protect; proper for defense; opposed to offensive.
  • adj. Carried on by resisting attack or aggression; -- opposed to offensive.
  • adj. In a state or posture of defense.
  • n. That which defends; a safeguard.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Serving to defend; proper for defense: as, defensive armor.
  • Of the nature of defense; consisting in resisting attack or aggression: as, defensive war, in distinction from offensive war, which is aggressive.
  • In a state or posture to defend: as, a defensive attitude.
  • n. That which defends or serves for defense; a safeguard; a security.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. intended or appropriate for defending against or deterring aggression or attack
  • adj. attempting to justify or defend in speech or writing
  • n. an attitude of defensiveness (especially in the phrase `on the defensive')


Sorry, no etymologies found.


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  • And if you're worried about getting sued all the time, then there is the natural tendency to practice what they call defensive medicine.

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  • The outer worlds formed what they called a defensive league and with characteristic human rationality promptly attacked us.

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