Definition of offensive in English:

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Pronunciation: /əˈfɛnsɪv/


1Causing someone to feel resentful, upset, or annoyed: the allegations made are deeply offensive to us offensive language
More example sentences
  • The film provoked controversy because of its use of offensive language, and was given an 18 rating by film censors.
  • There will be people who find the above image highly offensive and insensitive.
  • 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.
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;
crude, vulgar, coarse, indecent, improper
rare exceptionable
1.1(Of a sight or smell) disgusting; repulsive: an offensive odour
More example sentences
  • Chimney-sweeps, on the other hand, formed distinct and coherent communities, their filthy appearance and offensive smell forcing them into collective isolation.
  • 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.
  • In a three-month period, there were 33 disruptive incidents in total, most relating to having an offensive smell or verbal abuse.
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;
noxious, fetid, rank, rancid, malodorous, mephitic
informal ghastly, horrible, horrid, gross, putrid, sick-making, yucky, God-awful
British informal beastly
Northern Irish informal bogging
Australian informal on the nose
North American informal skanky
literary noisome
archaic disgustful, loathly
2 [attributive] Actively aggressive; attacking: offensive operations against the insurgents
More example sentences
  • The captain said the unit supported airlift operations and offensive air support operations.
  • It will be the hub of all logistics support for combat forces conducting offensive operations in littoral regions.
  • 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.
hostile, attacking, aggressive, invading, incursive, combative, threatening, martial, warlike, belligerent, bellicose, antagonistic, on the attack
2.1(Of a weapon) meant for use in attack: he is also accused of possessing an offensive weapon
More example sentences
  • They do not want other countries in Asia to get any kind of offensive missiles and nuclear weapons.
  • They found 13 firearms and 266 offensive weapons.
  • 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.
2.2chiefly North American Relating to the team in possession of the ball or puck in a game: Shell was an outstanding offensive tackle during his 15 years with the Raiders
More example sentences
  • The timeout is given at the first deadball when the team requesting it has offensive possession or on a foul.
  • The Mavericks probably are the most potent offensive team in the game but are criticized for their defense.
  • The offensive team passes the ball from man to man while the defense adjusts and follows the ball.


1An attacking military campaign: an impending military offensive against the guerrillas
More example sentences
  • This year under considerable pressure from the army, the president gave the go-ahead for a military offensive against separatist guerillas in Aceh.
  • Planning offensives, like military campaigns or space probes, are given virile, go-get-'em titles.
  • Rebels in the country's oil-rich Niger delta have threatened to attack oil facilities unless the military halts an offensive.
attack, assault, onslaught, drive, invasion, push, thrust, charge, sortie, sally, foray, raid, offence, act of war, act of aggression, incursion, blitz, campaign
1.1An organized and forceful campaign to achieve something, typically a political or social end: the need to launch an offensive against crime
More example sentences
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • First, governments began an offensive against the social welfare conditions they had been obliged to grant to the working class in an earlier period.



be on the offensive

Act or be ready to act aggressively: the forces of fascism were very much on the offensive
More example sentences
  • Well, the potential for a different kind of scam has proponents of electronic voting on the offensive.
  • The idea that fundamentalism is on the offensive and threatening to dominate public life is widely held on both sides of the Atlantic.
  • I think the president has also been on the offensive, which I think has certainly helped him.

go on (to) the offensive (or take the offensive)

Take the initiative by beginning to attack or act aggressively: security forces took the offensive ten days ago
More example sentences
  • Earlier he attempted to take the offensive, attacking the media coverage of the whole affair.
  • Security forces have also gone on the offensive.
  • A decisive call on working people to go on the offensive against the social attacks by the government would certainly get a response.
begin to attack, attack first, be aggressive, strike the first blow, start a war/battle/quarrel
informal be on the warpath



Pronunciation: /əˈfɛnsɪvnəs/
Example sentences
  • The next day, one of these emailers responded that he thought my reply was disproportionate to the offensiveness of his email; I agreed and apologized for having reacted inappropriately.
  • They shouldn't consider the author's past offensiveness, or the reprehensibleness of the ideas he expresses outside the paper.
  • Whether intentional or not, the racial offensiveness and insensitivity of Summers' remarks and actions must be acknowledged, criticized, and vigorously resisted.


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

Words that rhyme with offensive

apprehensive, coextensive, comprehensive, defensive, expensive, extensive, intensive, ostensive, pensive, suspensive

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: of¦fen|sive

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