Definition of defendant in English:



  • An individual, company, or institution sued or accused in a court of law.

    Compare with plaintiff
    • ‘The criminal law ought not to be less favourable to a defendant than the civil law.’
    • ‘It is odd that you can get an acquittal, without the defendant even having to appear in court.’
    • ‘The prosecution say that the defendant was a man who could be violent in a calm and calculated way.’
    • ‘The plaintiffs alleged trespass and the defendants claimed that they had a profit of grazing.’
    • ‘What was done was in direct response to a hazardous situation created by the defendants.’
    • ‘All claimants claim that there was a conspiracy by the defendants to injure them by unlawful means.’
    • ‘The defendants had approached and accused the police of kicking the girl, he said.’
    • ‘In fact the tenant was not treated less favourably than a defendant in the High Court.’
    • ‘The terms of the order were not explained to the defendant by the magistrates in open court.’
    • ‘Both the claimants and the defendants are in business for the purpose of making a profit.’
    • ‘The reality of the matter is that the object of these proceedings is to make the other defendants liable.’
    • ‘She instructed the defendants to draw up on her behalf a new will and two deeds of gift accordingly.’
    • ‘The case had taken a long time to get to court as the defendant had pleaded not guilty.’
    • ‘If the conduct of the defendants is not an issue in a defamation trial, what on earth is?’
    • ‘The court was told the defendant was stopped by police because he was not wearing a seat belt.’
    • ‘Each case will turn on its own facts but in my view the claimants are more likely to succeed than the defendants.’
    • ‘The Trial Chamber found that in the case at issue the defendants were guilty of persecution.’
    • ‘The claimant and all three defendants were represented at the hearing of the application.’
    • ‘The case was adjourned so that all three defendants could appear in court together.’
    • ‘Three defendants were each found liable to the plaintiff in a personal injuries case.’
    accused, prisoner at the bar
    appellant, litigant, respondent
    suspect, suspected person
    View synonyms


Middle English (as an adjective in the sense defending): from Old French, warding off present participle of defendre (see defend).