Definition of defensive in English:


Line breaks: de¦fen|sive
Pronunciation: /dɪˈfɛnsɪv


1Used or intended to defend or protect: defensive barriers
More example sentences
  • This group unites to form a defensive force to protect the city from a new band of villains.
  • The mammals swam in tight circles to create a defensive barrier as the great white lurked under the surface.
  • At the Tuileries, meanwhile, courtiers were going about armed and preparing defensive positions.
1.1(In sport) relating to or intended as defence: a defensive player a poor defensive record
More example sentences
  • He is the first player ever to be voted top rookie and defensive player of the year in the same season.
  • Benitez can also boast having one of the country's best defensive records having conceded just six times.
  • Liverpool have the eighth best goalscoring record and the seventh best defensive record.
2Very anxious to challenge or avoid criticism: he was very defensive about that side of his life
More example sentences
  • Many patients say they felt discouraged from complaining in the face of a defensive approach to criticism.
  • Both sides tend to adopt inflexible, judgmental and defensive attitudes toward one another.
  • Perhaps we should cut out the defensive attitudes and actually read what was posted?
self-justifying, oversensitive, thin-skinned, easily offended, prickly, paranoid, neurotic
informal uptight, twitchy


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


on the defensive

Expecting or resisting criticism or attack: British forces were on the defensive
More example sentences
  • They held up his reform programme and kept him on the defensive by mounting attacks on his closest associates.
  • Stay on the defensive, dodge constantly, and look for the other guy to make mistakes.
  • The Germans mostly remained on the defensive in the west in 1915, while chasing the Russians out of Poland.



More example sentences
  • Her younger sister replied quickly and somewhat defensively, Grace noted.
  • I asked, perhaps a little bit too defensively which, of course, gave me right away.
  • Con quickly held his pistols by the barrels and brought them up defensively.


More example sentences
  • Nonetheless, like a pebble in a pond, he sets off ripples of confusion, defensiveness and jealousy in the camp.
  • If activists gain successes, it's perhaps less because of their firepower or organisation than because of the defensiveness of the groups that they take on.
  • While the victory in Harare stemmed the tide, it could not halt the team's characteristic and understandable retreat into sullen defensiveness.

Definition of defensive in: