use-icon

HOW TO USE THE DICTIONARY

Learn what the dictionary tells you about words.

Get Started Now!

Some compound words (like bus rapid transit, dog whistle, or identity theft) don’t appear on the drop-down list when you enter them into the search window. If a compound term doesn’t appear in the drop-down list, try entering the term into the search window and then hit the search button (instead of the “enter” key). Alternatively, begin searches for compound terms with a quotation mark.

use-icon

THE USAGE PANEL

The Usage Panel is a group of nearly 200 prominent scholars, creative writers, journalists, diplomats, and others in occupations requiring mastery of language. The Panelists are surveyed annually to gauge the acceptability of particular usages and grammatical constructions.

The Panelists

puzzle-icon

NEED HELP SOLVING A CROSSWORD PUZZLE?

Go to our Crossword Puzzle Solver and type in the letters that you know, and the Solver will produce a list of possible solutions.

open-icon

INTERESTED IN DICTIONARIES?

Check out the Dictionary Society of North America at http://www.dictionarysociety.com

open-icon

AMERICAN HERITAGE DICTIONARY APP

The new American Heritage Dictionary app is now available for iOS and Android.

scroll-icon

INDO-EUROPEAN & SEMITIC ROOTS APPENDICES

Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:

Indo-European Roots

Semitic Roots

The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.

open-icon

OPEN DICTIONARY PROJECT

Share your ideas for new words and new meanings of old words!

Start Sharing Now!

100-words-icon

See word lists from the best-selling 100 Words Series!

Find out more!

de·fense (dĭ-fĕns)
Share:
n.
1. The act of defending against attack, danger, or injury.
2. A means or method of defending or protecting.
3. Sports The act or an instance of defending a championship against a challenger: will box in his third defense of his title.
4. An argument in support or justification of something. See Synonyms at apology.
5. Law
a. The act of defending a case.
b. A fact or law that provides a full or partial exoneration of the defendant against the charges or claims made in a lawsuit or prosecution.
c. The defendant and his or her legal counsel.
6. The science or art of defending oneself; self-defense.
7. (often dēfĕns) Sports
a. The means or tactics used in trying to stop the opposition from scoring.
b. The team or those players on the team attempting to stop the opposition from scoring.
c. Defending ability or potential.
8. The military, governmental, and industrial complex, especially as it authorizes and manages weaponry production.
tr.v. de·fensed, de·fens·ing, de·fens·es
Sports
1. To attempt to stop (the opposition) from scoring.
2. To play defense against (an opponent or play).

[Middle English, from Old French, from Latin dēfēnsa, from feminine past participle of dēfendere, to ward off; see DEFEND.]

de·fenseless adj.
de·fenseless·ly adv.
de·fenseless·ness n.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 

This website is best viewed in Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge, or Safari. Some characters in pronunciations and etymologies cannot be displayed properly in Internet Explorer.