Definition of offensive in English:



  • 1Causing someone to feel deeply hurt, upset, or angry.

    ‘the allegations made are deeply offensive to us’
    ‘offensive language’
    • ‘The FCC definition of indecency focuses on language deemed patently offensive by community broadcast standards.’
    • ‘Officials have always been able to send off players who use offensive, abusive or insulting language, but now that definition's been extended to cover gestures too.’
    • ‘I couldn't figure it out… I hadn't said anything even remotely offensive!’
    • ‘The film provoked controversy because of its use of offensive language, and was given an 18 rating by film censors.’
    • ‘I found the tone of your comments surprisingly offensive, which is very unusual for me.’
    • ‘By this point Aunt Sally has moved on to the next offensive remark.’
    • ‘Therefore, it would not be considered offensive in nature.’
    • ‘"It was offensive to some people, " founder Richard Yoo says.’
    • ‘Apparently, it was deemed too offensive by the BBC in 1962.’
    • ‘His writings were deemed offensive on various grounds, including personal, religious and political.’
    • ‘Yes, I know this message could be offensive to certain people.’
    • ‘He didn't say anything too offensive, but his eyes mocked her.’
    • ‘‘Smoking should be treated by Hollywood as seriously as offensive language,’ he says.’
    • ‘Whatever it is, I find it highly offensive.’
    • ‘Bart said he was deeply sorry for the offensive language.’
    • ‘No matter what your stance on gun control this would be morally offensive.’
    • ‘There will be people who find the above image highly offensive and insensitive.’
    • ‘If it's offensive to your sensibilities, then move on to something else.’
    • ‘He says he regrets that the comment was offensive.’
    • ‘Instead a particular kind of behaviour - such as smoking, unhealthy eating, or offensive language - is merely deemed beyond the pale.’
    insulting, rude, derogatory, disrespectful, hurtful, wounding, abusive, objectionable, displeasing, annoying, exasperating, irritating, vexing, galling, provocative, provoking, humiliating, impertinent, impudent, insolent, personal, discourteous, uncivil, impolite, unmannerly, unacceptable, shocking, scandalous, outrageous
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1(of a sight or smell) disgusting; repulsive.
      ‘an offensive odor’
      • ‘In a three-month period, there were 33 disruptive incidents in total, most relating to having an offensive smell or verbal abuse.’
      • ‘Be advised that if you encounter people who do carry an offensive odor, do not just tell them they stink.’
      • ‘For hundreds of years herbs and spices have been used to cover up and eliminate offensive odours in the home.’
      • ‘The list is a not-so-subtle attempt to shift attention away from the offensive odors that usually cause complaints.’
      • ‘I don't believe that there are many people around now who still genuinely find a nude human being to be an offensive sight.’
      • ‘The blossom is pollinated by flies that are attracted by its offensive smell: rotting flesh.’
      • ‘Certain regions of the street were near inapproachable due to offensive odours, the likes of which could be produced only by excessive waste.’
      • ‘I'm just glad we will be spared the sight of this offensive spectacle.’
      • ‘One such hide hung from the opposite wall, an offensive smell permeating it.’
      • ‘A doctor friend of ours kindly provided a large supply of surgical masks which I wore constantly to mask the imaginary offensive smells emitting from the kitchen.’
      • ‘What's wrong with admitting that some smells are offensive?’
      • ‘Whereas gravlax has never had an offensive smell, the more fully fermented rakefisk is quite different in this respect.’
      • ‘It will not have the offensive smell of raw pig waste and will hopefully be available to farmers at less than the cost of imported fertilisers.’
      • ‘Other offensive odours can come from areas such as the refrigerator, garbage bins, including indoor compost buckets, musty drawers and even shoes.’
      • ‘Chimney-sweeps, on the other hand, formed distinct and coherent communities, their filthy appearance and offensive smell forcing them into collective isolation.’
      • ‘But if the smell is offensive, you need to tackle it along with the athlete's foot.’
      • ‘‘This gives off a very offensive odour, certainly when it is spread in dry weather,’ he said.’
      • ‘A place where those who find offensive the sight of their neighbours walking down the street now have their very own Commission to complain to.’
      • ‘Neighbors called authorities after an offensive smell began emanating from the house in Sydney's southern suburbs.’
      • ‘Most mattresses lose their offensive smell within a few weeks, especially in a well-ventilated bedroom.’
      unpleasant, disagreeable, nasty, distasteful, displeasing, objectionable, off-putting, uninviting, awful, terrible, dreadful, frightful, obnoxious, abominable, disgusting, repulsive, repellent, repugnant, revolting, abhorrent, loathsome, hateful, detestable, execrable, odious, vile, foul, unsavoury, unpalatable, sickening, nauseating, nauseous, ugly, unsightly
      View synonyms
  • 2[attributive] Actively aggressive; attacking.

    ‘offensive operations against the insurgents’
    • ‘An air defense effectiveness indicator in offensive operations should reflect the extent of air superiority of the friendly forces.’
    • ‘Efficient performance of these tasks largely determined success of offensive operations.’
    • ‘They are most proud of the fact that they could quickly shift gears from force protection operations to direct offensive combat without missing a beat.’
    • ‘The purpose of this follow-on operation was to further reduce the offensive capabilities of the militia.’
    • ‘It will be the hub of all logistics support for combat forces conducting offensive operations in littoral regions.’
    • ‘Victories won through aggressive offensive action would give a small army a moral ascendancy over its foes, allowing it to obtain decisive victory.’
    • ‘Historically, urban warfare has been among the most difficult offensive operations, leaving many attackers and defenders dead.’
    • ‘Apparently, the framers believed in a distinction between aggressive or offensive war and defensive military measures.’
    • ‘First, for the insurgent, warfare is always offensive, never defensive; always protracted, never swift.’
    • ‘The offensive tempo of the operation would ebb and flow for the duration of the battle, changing rapidly due to the enemy's ability to use terrain to his advantage.’
    • ‘You need offensive mobility to actively seek attacking opportunities.’
    • ‘Securing the base meant conducting offensive ground combat operations.’
    • ‘The attack actions include offensive measures and supporting measures, as shown in the table.’
    • ‘Designed as a heavy fighter the Unicorn gunboat has the offensive power to take out small capitol ships, providing it lasts that long though.’
    • ‘The captain said the unit supported airlift operations and offensive air support operations.’
    • ‘They never used offensive power to enlarge national territories at the expense of others.’
    • ‘In planning the war, Japan set clearly aggressive, offensive tasks.’
    • ‘Apparently a decision was made to conduct a simultaneous air/land offensive operation.’
    • ‘The MCS will provide direct and beyond-line-of-sight offensive firepower.’
    • ‘As hostilities unfold and become tenser, the sides will inevitably launch multiple defensive and offensive operations.’
    hostile, attacking, aggressive, invading, incursive, combative, threatening, martial, warlike, belligerent, bellicose, antagonistic, on the attack
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1(of a weapon) meant for use in attack.
      ‘he is also accused of possessing an offensive weapon’
      • ‘He further admitted causing grievous bodily harm with intent, and each defendant also admitted carrying an offensive weapon in public.’
      • ‘A charge of possession of a wooden truncheon as an offensive weapon on the A61 Leeds Road at Pannal on the same day was dropped.’
      • ‘In August 1992 Williams was convicted of trespassing with an offensive weapon and was given a 12-month conditional discharge.’
      • ‘To achieve these goals, he is likely to use the entire range of his aerospace offensive weapons.’
      • ‘Building defenses to stop offensive missiles has gone global, as well it should.’
      • ‘The police currently have the power to stop and search people in connection with the carrying of knives and other offensive weapons.’
      • ‘He said the bow and arrow constituted an offensive weapon and warned others not to make similar mistakes.’
      • ‘Characteristics of offensive weapons are improved, enabling them to be used, quite soon, both in airspace and outer space.’
      • ‘The thinking behind offensive grenades is that the thrower is in the open attacking an enemy position, and so cannot take cover, so he aims to stun the enemy with an explosive blast.’
      • ‘One consequence of the increased sophistication of offensive weapons has been the increased sophistication of defensive strategies.’
      • ‘A weapon with one but not both characteristics should not be considered offensive.’
      • ‘‘We keep all legislation to deal with knives and offensive weapons under review to ensure they are effective and enforceable,’ he said.’
      • ‘Seizures of drugs and offensive weapons other than guns, during stop and searches were also the highest outside the Metropolitan Police force.’
      • ‘The rapid technological development of offensive weapons posed a serious challenge to air defenders.’
      • ‘Butler was tried and convicted of carrying an offensive weapon.’
      • ‘They found 13 firearms and 266 offensive weapons.’
      • ‘Current non-arrestable offences include impersonating a police officer, failing to stop a vehicle when ordered to do so and manufacturing or selling an offensive weapon.’
      • ‘Since the galley represented by the model in Plates V and VI, was built in 1736, her dominant offensive weapon was a cannon at her bow.’
      • ‘One was also cautioned for carrying an offensive weapon after a knuckle-duster and a knife were found.’
      • ‘They do not want other countries in Asia to get any kind of offensive missiles and nuclear weapons.’
    2. 2.2North American (in a game) relating to the team or player who is seeking to score.
      • ‘The only positions declared dosed in the first round are quarterback and offensive tackle.’
      • ‘He is a solid on the ball defender, which makes up for his unorthodox offensive game.’
      • ‘AFC West observers aren't sure the Chargers can last with their offensive line.’
      • ‘The Mavericks probably are the most potent offensive team in the game but are criticized for their defense.’
      • ‘There are many reasons why people say Anthony Munoz is greatest offensive lineman ever.’
      • ‘Rolls has the starting job at second base largely because of his offensive power.’
      • ‘Still, there are a lot of options for teams in need of offensive playmakers.’
      • ‘The Broncos have more offensive weapons than they did in their Super Bowl years.’
      • ‘Malone is averaging 1.7 offensive rebounds, well under his career mark of 2.5.’
      • ‘Boudreau joined the team last year and brought dramatic improvement to the offensive line.’
      • ‘Aldridge is such a good rebounder he can get 10 points a game using offensive putbacks and free throws.’
      • ‘He has the height and weight NFL teams desire in an offensive tackle.’
      • ‘What do most offensive linemen get noticed for, anyway?’
      • ‘However, Oakland has the offensive weapons to give the Chargers' defense fits.’
      • ‘I think tight ends who can block are appreciated even less than offensive linemen.’
      • ‘The timeout is given at the first deadball when the team requesting it has offensive possession or on a foul.’
      • ‘They need to score with their defense and get a lot of offensive rebounds.’
      • ‘The offensive team passes the ball from man to man while the defense adjusts and follows the ball.’
      • ‘To do this you will need to increase their turnovers or get more offensive rebounds.’
      • ‘There aren't enough great offensive defensemen to go around.’


  • 1An attacking military campaign.

    ‘an impending military offensive against the guerrillas’
    • ‘Insofar as details are available, the plan involved both a military offensive in the north and a coup attempt in the capital.’
    • ‘The arrest comes as American and Iraqi troops step up their offensive against insurgents.’
    • ‘This year under considerable pressure from the army, the president gave the go-ahead for a military offensive against separatist guerillas in Aceh.’
    • ‘The war plan outlines a military offensive that would lead to thousands, if not tens of thousands of casualties.’
    • ‘Tonight, the United States stepping up its offensive against insurgents after violence escalates dramatically.’
    • ‘Who is likely to benefit from such a bizarre war, a military offensive prosecuted as an exercise in risk-avoidance?’
    • ‘Yet, once again, the response of the ruling elite is to insist that there can be no retreat and to launch a number of military offensives in Iraq.’
    • ‘The suppression was so controversial and bloody, however, that UN peacekeepers would not engage in military offensives for another thirty years.’
    • ‘Reflecting Soviet military doctrine, the DPRK has traditionally viewed chemical weapons as an integral part of any military offensive.’
    • ‘As a result of government military offensives, the people have suffered from death and serious injury, food shortages, homelessness and internal displacement.’
    • ‘Forces launched an offensive to retake the region at the beginning of May.’
    • ‘The government claims it has reduced the rebel firepower and military strength since launching offensives after the groups were listed.’
    • ‘In 1998 and 1999, they launched new military offensives and extended its control, driving its opponents into pockets of territory in the north east.’
    • ‘Rebels in the country's oil-rich Niger delta have threatened to attack oil facilities unless the military halts an offensive.’
    • ‘India said it was ‘greatly disappointed’ and stressed military offensives were not an alternative to peace.’
    • ‘The president has warned that he could launch military offensives if the rebels fail to conclude talks with the government by Friday.’
    • ‘Planning offensives, like military campaigns or space probes, are given virile, go-get-'em titles.’
    • ‘In December 1998 the alliance began an offensive to retake Freetown and in January overran most of the city.’
    • ‘Military sources say they're laying down the groundwork for an eventual offensive to retake Fallujah from insurgents.’
    • ‘A new round of exploratory talks, scuttled by accusations on both sides of military offensives, may happen soon, Kabalu said.’
    attack, assault, onslaught, drive, invasion, push, thrust, charge, sortie, sally, foray, raid, offence, act of war, act of aggression, incursion, blitz, campaign
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1An organized and forceful campaign to achieve something, typically a political or social end.
      ‘the need to launch an offensive against crime’
      • ‘It has become increasingly clear that it is impossible to repulse the offensive launched against the working class without challenging the basis of the capitalist system.’
      • ‘Yorkshire Water today went on to a public relations offensive targeting both its business and domestic customers.’
      • ‘This is a political struggle against a government that has waged a non-stop offensive against all of the past social gains of the working class.’
      • ‘He said the ICSA would next week mount an offensive at EU level with other farm organisations to secure a higher ewe premium.’
      • ‘I think the issue of file-sharing requires something of a public relations offensive, not a legal battering.’
      • ‘The alliance between these discredited forces could not withstand a sustained political offensive by the working class.’
      • ‘A social offensive is being waged in every country against the working class, aimed at clawing back the concessions that were made to avert the socialist threat in an earlier period.’
      • ‘Alongside the offensive against social rights, basic democratic rights are also under fire.’
      • ‘The bosses' organisation is pushing for an offensive against workers.’
      • ‘Minority shareholders in the beermaker are gearing up for a court battle in their continued em>offensive against the majority owner.’
      • ‘From 1967 to 1982 he was in charge of the KGB, where he pursued very successful offensives against political dissidents and against corruption.’
      • ‘The government and bosses are mounting the biggest offensive on social rights and welfare since the end of the Second World War.’
      • ‘The president's first offensive against social security has already been pushed onto the back burner.’
      • ‘In 1988 the Conservative government introduced the Education Act as part of its general offensive against welfare and social services.’
      • ‘But I am puzzled by the apparent conviction that the golden rice project is somehow compromised by the industry offensive.’
      • ‘Here, too, a courageous political offensive would undermine the influence of Islamism, which can offer no answer to the social crisis.’
      • ‘First, governments began an offensive against the social welfare conditions they had been obliged to grant to the working class in an earlier period.’
      • ‘The mid-1990s saw a public relations offensive from Shell.’
      • ‘They had consciously worked to keep the issue of the explosion of imperialist militarism separate from the capitalist offensive against democratic and social rights.’
      • ‘In a short period Reebok India has become the market leader; it has even found it necessary to launch an offensive against counterfeiting of its products.’
      campaign, drive, push, move, movement, effort, struggle
      View synonyms


  • be on the offensive

    • Act or be ready to act aggressively.

      • ‘Well, the potential for a different kind of scam has proponents of electronic voting on the offensive.’
      • ‘He came across as a credible candidate, and he was usually on the offensive.’
      • ‘The home side, who were on the offensive from the start, were rewarded with a goal after 13 minutes.’
      • ‘With a gun, it is always better to be on the offensive than the defensive.’
      • ‘The chiefs who opposed the fiscal institutions legislation were on the offensive from the beginning.’
      • ‘The developers are on the offensive, claiming they need to build on more greenfield sites.’
      • ‘I think the president has also been on the offensive, which I think has certainly helped him.’
      • ‘The idea that fundamentalism is on the offensive and threatening to dominate public life is widely held on both sides of the Atlantic.’
      • ‘He was a different fighter and from the start he was on the offensive, taking the first point with a straight left through Kindelan's guard.’
      • ‘However, Lisa comes right back on the offensive and warns her not to say a thing.’
  • go on (or take) the offensive

    • Take the initiative by beginning to attack or act aggressively.

      ‘security forces took the offensive ten days ago’
      • ‘Every time he tried to go on the offensive, he found himself blocking another attack.’
      • ‘Security forces have also gone on the offensive.’
      • ‘Mr Brown went on the offensive over the European budget and called for sheltered markets to be opened up, ‘starting with agriculture’.’
      • ‘Earlier he attempted to take the offensive, attacking the media coverage of the whole affair.’
      • ‘A decisive call on working people to go on the offensive against the social attacks by the government would certainly get a response.’
      • ‘The British Phonographic Industry went on the offensive today by telling UK filesharers stop sharing music - or end up in court.’
      • ‘Franges not only was able to respond to all of the attacks, but also managed to go on the offensive.’
      • ‘After the break, Baltinglass went on the offensive again, with Paddy Kelly putting them 3-1 up on 55 minutes.’
      • ‘They went on the offensive today in a bid to generate an extra £500 million revenue over the next five years from small and medium-sized businesses.’
      • ‘By taking the offensive in strength in Lorraine, the French seized the initiative and forced the Germans to fight the decisive battle there between Metz and Strasbourg.’
      begin to attack, attack first, be aggressive, strike the first blow, start a battle, start a quarrel, start a war
      be on the warpath
      View synonyms


Mid 16th century: from French offensif, -ive or medieval Latin offensivus, from Latin offens- struck against from the verb offendere (see offend).