Definition of defensive in English:



  • 1Used or intended to defend or protect.

    ‘troops in defensive positions’
    • ‘This group unites to form a defensive force to protect the city from a new band of villains.’
    • ‘I followed her outside to where the guards had formed defensive ranks.’
    • ‘On the other hand, the Austrians enjoyed a strong defensive position that could be maintained at a relatively low cost.’
    • ‘The mammals swam in tight circles to create a defensive barrier as the great white lurked under the surface.’
    • ‘However, the Soviet forces quickly managed to construct new defensive positions and bring up fresh forces.’
    • ‘At the Tuileries, meanwhile, courtiers were going about armed and preparing defensive positions.’
    • ‘In front of it lay the very strong Hindenburg Line - a defensive position in which the Germans put a great deal of trust.’
    • ‘Those involved in the ambush said a trap had been laid, and that the area was marked with defensive earth berms and firing positions.’
    • ‘The shire developed in Saxon times around Nottingham itself, where the rock made a strong defensive position.’
    defending, guarding, safeguarding, protecting, protective, shielding, screening
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1attributive (in sports) relating to or intended as defense.
      • ‘They were left to rue one awful defensive blunder which enabled full back Simon Verbickas to race in for a try.’
      • ‘At the time when he was forced into suspension United sat top of the table, with the best defensive record in the league.’
      • ‘Liverpool have the eighth best goalscoring record and the seventh best defensive record.’
      • ‘Very early on in a table tennis career you have to decide whether you want to be an attacking or defensive player.’
      • ‘You are the dominant defensive player in the game, yet rarely do you run into foul trouble.’
      • ‘He has as much athleticism as any collegiate player and strong defensive ability.’
      • ‘The defensive players were boisterous and energetic and were taking it to the offense.’
      • ‘Early in the match he brought a fine save out of David Marshall in the Celtic goal after a defensive error from Joos Valgaeren.’
      • ‘A defensive lapse in the 43rd minute allowed a Brandon player to get a shot on target.’
      • ‘Benitez can also boast having one of the country's best defensive records having conceded just six times.’
      • ‘Dings deserve credit for some excellent defensive work and solid set-piece play.’
      • ‘Next, have the player go through the defensive movements in slow motion on the court.’
      • ‘The Bucs simply played a brilliant defensive game, one of the best in recent memory.’
      • ‘The final was closer than the scoreline suggested, with both players adopting a defensive style in a gruelling final.’
      • ‘Getting your first wind is now a difficult thing, the weaker player getting into a defensive stance right from the start.’
      • ‘He is the first player ever to be voted top rookie and defensive player of the year in the same season.’
      • ‘Make a short hard jab step in the direction of the defensive player with your right foot.’
      • ‘The Rams are sure to use most of their draft picks on defensive talent and make staff changes.’
      • ‘He is not considered a good defensive player, mainly because of his lack of speed.’
      • ‘A great defensive performance kept the score line blank at half time.’
  • 2Very anxious to challenge or avoid criticism.

    ‘he was very defensive about that side of his life’
    • ‘Both sides tend to adopt inflexible, judgmental and defensive attitudes toward one another.’
    • ‘He was never frightened, but was easily defensive, and yet he also had a gentle side.’
    • ‘Yet when challenged they got ever so defensive and the story quickly unravelled.’
    • ‘Certainly ignorance tends to make people defensive and a little insecure.’
    • ‘One side admitting intellectual vulnerability may make the other side less defensive too.’
    • ‘Most said they were met with a defensive and legalistic attitude by the organisation.’
    • ‘Her expression is pained, quizzical and defensive, as if expecting a tirade of criticism at every turn.’
    • ‘Their gazes met, held, and the defensive expression in her eyes shattered.’
    • ‘Host Alan Kohler quite nicely brought out this defensive side with some telling jabs.’
    • ‘I'm no psychologist but he did seem a little defensive about his name.’
    • ‘His death is another development in a series of angry exchanges between a critical media and a defensive government.’
    • ‘Unlike my sister, who became more reserved, I became an extrovert and very defensive.’
    • ‘Many patients say they felt discouraged from complaining in the face of a defensive approach to criticism.’
    • ‘Unsurprisingly, he is defensive and does not take criticism very well.’
    • ‘Perhaps we should cut out the defensive attitudes and actually read what was posted?’
    • ‘Could you be feeling defensive because you want to avoid having to say you're sorry?’
    self-justifying, oversensitive, thin-skinned, easily offended, prickly, paranoid, neurotic
    View synonyms


  • on the defensive

    • Expecting or resisting criticism or attack.

      ‘the forces have remained on the defensive’
      • ‘The mobile rings buzzes displaying ‘Withheld’ which puts me on the defensive for a start.’
      • ‘Stay on the defensive, dodge constantly, and look for the other guy to make mistakes.’
      • ‘Being on the defensive for a while is not that bad, though such an attitude would render them losers in the long run.’
      • ‘They held up his reform programme and kept him on the defensive by mounting attacks on his closest associates.’
      • ‘The Germans mostly remained on the defensive in the west in 1915, while chasing the Russians out of Poland.’
      • ‘They haven't really been able to emphasise those points because they've been on the defensive.’
      • ‘He put me on the defensive and I lost all the momentum I gained talking to the assistant.’
      • ‘They say that's because the president is on the defensive after the first two debates.’
      • ‘Avoid responding to them in kind and attacking them to put them on the defensive.’
      • ‘That showed how a minority party can make news and put the majority party on the defensive.’


Late Middle English: from Old French défensif, -ive, from medieval Latin defensivus, from Latin defens- ‘warded off’, from the verb defendere (see defend).