‘Best Defense is a Good Offense’: Definition, Meaning, and Examples

By Amy Gilmore, updated on November 16, 2022

Perhaps, you have heard people use the popular saying, ‘best defense is a good offense.’ While that might seem like a sports reference, it can also be applied to war strategies. 

It means that the best way to defend yourself is to keep the opponent busy because you are attacking them, and if they are busy defending themselves, they can’t attack you. 

To learn more about this phrase, take a look at this guide. It includes usage examples, definitions, and writing tips for using idioms successfully. 

What Does the ‘Best Defense is a Good Offense’ Mean?

‘Best defense is a good offense’ means that the best way to defend yourself is to attack your opponent. If you keep your opponent busy, they will not be able to plan an attack on you.

Definition of ‘Defense’

The definition of ‘defense’ is the act of resisting an attack from an opponent. 

Definition of ‘Offense’

In sports, ‘offense’ is the act of trying to score points. In war, it is the act of attacking the other side. 

Origin of the ‘Best Defense is a Good Offense’

The phrase ‘best defense is a good offense’ originates from war generals. The term comes from planning an attack on the opposition. If one opponent attacks the other, they cannot plan an attack on the opposing side. 

When Do People Say the ‘Best Defense is a Good Offense?’

As mentioned, this phrase originates from war generals planning attacks on their opponents. However, it is most frequently used today in reference to sports or fighting legal or business battles

Examples of the ‘Best Defense is a Good Offense’ 

Reading examples of an idiom is often easier when you read examples. So, take a look at the sample sentences below. 

  • We have been planning an innovative product line to beat the competition. After all, you know the ‘best defense is a good offense.’
  • The ‘best defense is a good offense,’ and the basketball team kept their opponent so busy blocking their shots that the other team never had a chance to shoot their shot.

Idiom Usage Writing Tips

Using idioms can make your writing more interesting. However, you need to ensure that you use them correctly. Here are a few tips to help you use idioms successfully. 

  1. Do Not Overuse Idioms

Overusing figures of speech makes your writing sound elementary and, in some cases, may give the audience the impression you are trying too hard. 

  1. Ensure You Know the Meaning

Before using a word or phrase, you should ensure you know the meaning. Looking up popular idioms on a site like writingtips.org is a great way to ensure you are using a figure of speech in the correct context. 

  1. Be Mindful of Your Audience

Using idioms, your audience knows and understands is important. You do not want to use terms the reader has to look up unless you are trying to write like Earnest Hemingway or Jane Austen.

Other Popular Idioms

‘Bearer of Bad News’ 

Bearer of bad news’ is a statement people use to describe a person or themselves if they deliver bad news. The phrase originated in the 17th century when people who carried bodies to their graves were called 'bearers.' 

‘Canary in a Coal Mine’ 

Canary in a coal mine’ is a speech figure describing a person or animal that signals danger. The phrase originated from canaries being used by coal miners to signal the build-up of deadly gases in mines. If the canary died, it meant that dangerous gases were present. 

‘Bat an Eye’

Bat an eye’ is a statement that means that someone did not even blink an eye. The phrase is often used to say that someone showed no reaction or surprise at being told shocking information. 

Final Advice on ‘Best Defense is a Good Offense’

The statement the ‘best defense is a good offense’ is a saying that means it is better to attack than wait for your opponent to attack you. You can apply it to many different situations. 

However, it is especially relevant to sports or war strategy. Using idioms is a great way to connect with your audience, which is why many sports coaches use this idiom to motivate their offense. Nevertheless, you could also use this in business or personal references. 

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Written By:
Amy Gilmore
Amy Gilmore is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. She has been a professional writer and editor for the past eight years. She developed a love of language arts and literature in school and decided to become a professional freelance writer after a demanding career in real estate. Amy is constantly learning to become a better writer and loves sharing tips with other writers who want to do the same.

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