Definition of defend in English:



  • 1Resist an attack made on (someone or something); protect from harm or danger.

    ‘we shall defend our island, whatever the cost’
    • ‘Frontline, set up three years ago, works to protect and defend human rights workers in danger across the world.’
    • ‘Now we call on him one more time to preserve, protect and defend our nation and all for which it stands.’
    • ‘That day, military service men and women launched, sailed, soared, and landed in harm's way to defend America's home front.’
    • ‘Yet we had a treaty with Vietnam saying that if they were attacked, we'd defend them.’
    • ‘By the film's end, he finds himself in the painful position of defending the bridge from attack by fellow officers who want to destroy it to prevent Japanese trains from using it.’
    • ‘I did a terrible job of defending it against those attacks.’
    • ‘And you do not defend bigots by attacking people who refuse to listen to bigotry pretending to be substantive discussion.’
    • ‘The Board was set up in 1760 to ‘protect, support and defend the interests and religious rights and customs of the Jewish community in the UK’.’
    • ‘Admiral Sampson urged him to attack the batteries defending the entrance to the harbor.’
    • ‘When a citizen joins the military, he or she takes an oath to protect and defend the country.’
    • ‘In an attack it was awkward to move and set-up - but in defence it was a very dangerous weapon for anyone attacking a position defended by Vickers machine guns.’
    • ‘I was in Nicaragua in 1988 and saw small groups of soldiers defending each bridge from attacks - a very expensive undertaking for a small country.’
    • ‘They would not attack you unless to defend their territory but can be quite aggressive to each other.’
    • ‘I will protect and defend this country by taking the fight to the enemy.’
    • ‘After the capture of Harfleur, he defended it against French attacks and was rewarded by promotion in 1416 to ducal rank.’
    • ‘By defending their innocence and resisting fascism, the Rosenbergs literally broke the back of the Cold War.’
    • ‘The resolution of the attack depends upon the number of points that can be brought to bear in attacking and defending that territory.’
    • ‘Squadrons will create their own missions by attacking and defending their bases and getting their bases supplied - by whatever means necessary.’
    • ‘Heavy guns were put into position on Singapore island to defend it against attack from the sea.’
    • ‘He spoke to the Assembly and argued for the development of a military force capable of defending the city against attack from aggressors.’
    protect, guard, safeguard, keep from harm, preserve, secure, shield, shelter, screen
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    1. 1.1Speak or write in favour of (an action or person); attempt to justify.
      ‘he defended his policy of imposing high rates’
      • ‘They will defend him when he acts boldly to advance democracy and excuse him when he doesn't.’
      • ‘The leaders have no clear policy to defend our people.’
      • ‘Everyone adores money, why not the doctors, I asked, in a feeble attempt to defend my colleagues and take the easy way out of a pointless argument.’
      • ‘What angered many of the townspeople most was Atticus's attempt to truly defend Tom.’
      • ‘I have found myself defending this guy over the years, writing him off as a spirited, competitive coach doing wild, crazy things in the heat of battle.’
      • ‘John explained the man would now defend him if anyone abused him.’
      • ‘My new mother did not dare speak out against my father to defend me.’
      • ‘Both men vigorously denied any wrongdoing, staunchly defended their men, and aggressively justified the customary practices of the department.’
      • ‘I was a little shocked at the fact that he was attempting to defend me.’
      • ‘Should we defend Sligo's famous son or are the criticisms justifiable.’
      • ‘You seem to be in a double bind in that you can't really speak about defending yourself and yet the allegations against you seem to mount?’
      • ‘She seemed speechless, so Carla spoke up to defend her.’
      • ‘We thrill to their victories, commit their most heroic moments to memory, defend our favourite players with almost theological passion.’
      • ‘The Board of Trustees thinks it's entitled to speak for the whole community when it defends him.’
      • ‘Despite disagreeing with his colleagues, he has defended their right to speak out.’
      • ‘He's defended the country's pro-nuclear policy previously.’
      • ‘Kirby defended Alan and made excuses for his rude, harassing behavior.’
      • ‘Jeremy said little, but I could tell by his expression that he considered defending Nick a more acceptable excuse than defending Jeremy himself.’
      • ‘So on this occasion I write to defend you out of principle, not likemindedness.’
      • ‘She was quick to defend the people she wrote about and testified to her deep respect for them.’
      justify, vindicate, argue for, speak for, speak on behalf of, support, speak in support of, give an apologia for, make a case for, plead for, make excuses for, excuse, exonerate, palliate
      support, speak in support of, back, stand by, stick up for, stand up for, argue for, champion, endorse, uphold, come to the defence of, sustain, bolster
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    2. 1.2Compete to retain (a title or seat) in a contest or election.
      ‘he won the party's nomination to defend the Welsh seat’
      ‘the defending champion’
      • ‘Young Tom defended his title successfully in 1869 and again in 1870, so winning outright the then trophy of a silver-adorned red Morocco leather belt.’
      • ‘A thrilling finish saw Hardy Eustace successfully defend his Champion Hurdle title, edging out Harchibald and Brave Inca on the line.’
      • ‘The undefeated super middleweight champion defended his WBO title 14 times after beating Chris Eubank in 1997.’
      • ‘As things stand everything now points to the champions successfully defending their title.’
      • ‘South African flyweight champion Phumzile Matyhila, who has defended his title successfully for a number of fights, will now challenge for the light flyweight division title.’
      • ‘The inclement weather turned out to be the main disturbing factor for the tournament last year in which Magnus Norman from Sweden successfully defended his title.’
      • ‘Victory in that bout could see Wharton face Sheffield's Clinton Woods, if Woods successfully defends his European title against Spain's Juan Perez Nelongo of Spain tonight.’
      • ‘Norman again successfully defended his title.’
      • ‘If the champions are to defend their title successfully then there can be simply no more days like these.’
      • ‘They have successfully defended their title against 15 bands at the 18th annual Youth Brass Band Entertainment Festival of Great Britain.’
      • ‘The fanatical Fulham fan successfully defended his Southern title last February with a 10-round points success over Harrow's Matthew Tait.’
      • ‘Reigning champion Payne successfully defended his title when he beat the number one seed Jonathan Clark, to whom he had lost 3-2 on the only previous occasion the pair had met.’
      • ‘The town successfully defended the title it had won over the past two years with some splendid team performances.’
      • ‘Hendrik Bottger, from Wales, successfully defended the title he won last year in a time of 2 hours, 36 minutes and 21 seconds.’
      • ‘Yorkshire successfully defended the team title to take gold and the Yorkshire women triumphed for the first time.’
      • ‘Two years later they successfully defended their title, beating Juventus 6-1 in the final.’
      • ‘He successfully defended his seat last year against the challenge of Conservative Derek Scholes, and will not come up for reselection until 2007.’
      • ‘The council's own footballing heroes successfully defended their title in the European Municipal Cup in St Malo, France.’
      • ‘The girls are working towards several competitions, including defending their title at the UK Street Dance Championships in November.’
      • ‘He successfully defended his title at Glen View one year later, then repeated the feat, again at the Myopia Hunt Club, in 1905.’
  • 2Conduct the case for (the party being accused or sued) in a lawsuit.

    ‘he is a lawyer who specializes in defending political prisoners’
    • ‘And speaking about defense attorneys getting ulcers trying to defend their clients, don't worry about this.’
    • ‘The availability of an action by a client for breach of contract or negligence against his lawyer for the lawyer's conduct in defending or prosecuting a civil or criminal case is limited.’
    • ‘Many European lawyers refused to defend the accused.’
    • ‘In an opinion as to the prospects of an appeal, Mr Birnbaum QC, who defended the appellant at trial, stated that the summing up afforded no grounds for criticism.’
    • ‘Lawyers defending the accused would also be vetted, and vital evidence could be withheld from them to stop ‘sensitive’ information being made public.’
    • ‘The question was whether the domestic Court of Appeal should properly have decided the case without trial counsel being allowed to defend the accused.’
    • ‘He said private lawyers would also make the trial fairer since the government is the complainant in the case, the prosecutor and at the same time expected to provide lawyers to defend the accused.’
    • ‘But counsel defending the father, explained that the child had run out in front of a car, placing himself in danger, and that the parents were at the end of their tether.’
    • ‘She was defending a man accused of stealing his brother-in-law's car.’
    • ‘Uniformed lawyers now assigned to defend the detainees have become among the most forceful critics of the system.’
    • ‘Merck & Co. is now defending an estimated 700 lawsuits brought against them in the US related to Vioxx.’
  • 3[no object] (in sport) protect one's goal or wicket rather than attempt to score against one's opponents.

    ‘they were forced to defend for long periods’
    • ‘You can't say Brazil are naive at the back - they just couldn't be bothered defending when there's goals to be scored.’
    • ‘They have plenty of offensive weapons; Nash, Nowitski, Finley, and Jamison, and Daniels and Howard can score and defend.’
    • ‘Opponents better be ready to run and defend because Gonzaga will score.’
    • ‘Though he isn't a reliable threat in the closing minutes of games, SG Tracy McGrady scores, rebounds and defends as well as any perimeter player in the league.’
    • ‘It's the most accurate measure of how well a team scores and defends.’
    • ‘He scored, rebounded, defended and played some inspired basketball from the center position.’
    • ‘The goal when defending dominant big men is to limit their position and options.’
    • ‘Here we focus on the tire players who excel at the most critical skills of the trade: scoring, ballhandling, defending, shooting and passing.’
    • ‘But it's not about possession, it's about creating chances, scoring goals and defending properly.’
    • ‘Left back Stephen Jordan showed there's more to his game than defending by scoring the opening two goals with headers.’
    • ‘At his best, he is an exquisite everyman, for he can create, defend, and score goals.’
    • ‘Ilkley started to creep nearer Keighley's score with two penalty goals and some slack defending allowed the left winger to score in the corner.’
    • ‘Consequently, Styans players could retreat towards their own goal and defend in numbers and with vigour.’
    • ‘This season, they've had to assist Krzyzewski in inventing different ways for the team to score points and defend.’
    • ‘If you go to a game expecting to see two teams each working together to score and defend, then you won't be disappointed by women's college basketball.’
    • ‘He is a very under-rated striker who not only scores goals but defends well at both ends of the pitch.’
    • ‘Marshall can rebound, score and defend, which is precisely why the Raptors would not agree to the deal unless Marshall was included.’
    • ‘It's strange because if we don't score we tend to defend well, but once we do manage to find the net we always look vulnerable at the other end.’
    • ‘Welsch has established himself as the second-best all-around player on the team, a guy who scores, passes and defends.’
    • ‘Now he must use it more productively scoring, rebounding and defending in the box.’


Middle English: from Old French defendre, from Latin defendere, from de- off + -fendere to strike. Compare with offend.