‘Defense' or 'Defence': What's the Difference?

By Shanea Patterson, updated on December 6, 2022

Is it ‘defense’ or ‘defence’? You might be wondering what the difference is between the two spellings. We’ll cover that in more detail below. Tons of words in the English language are tricky to spell.

But the correct way to spell the word in English is ‘defense.’ ‘Defence’ is the British English spelling of the word.

Defence vs. Defense – Which Should I Use?

If you’re going to be writing for an American audience, the best way to spell the word is with an ‘s.’ However, if you’re writing for a British audience, it’s better to use the version with the ‘c.’

Defence vs. Defense – What’s the Difference?

So, you’ve just learned that the difference between the two words is that ‘defense’ is the American English spelling of the word and ‘defence’ is the British English spelling of the word.

Definition and Meaning

The definition of the word ‘defense’ is: “the act or action of defending.” It can also mean “the denial, answer, or plea of one against whom a criminal or civil action is brought: a defendant’s denial, answer of plea,” “capability of resisting attack,” “ability to keep an opponent from scoring in a game or contest: defensive play or ability,” “means or method of defending or protecting oneself, one’s team, or another,” “argument in support or justification,” “the collected facts and method adopted by a defendant to protect and defend against a plaintiff’s action,” “a sequence of moves available to the second player in the opening,” “a defending party or group,” “a defensive team,” and “the military and industrial aggregate that authorizes and supervises arms production.”

The verb form of the word can be defined as: “to take specific action against (an opposing team or player or an offensive play): to attempt to keep (an opponent or play) from scoring in a game or contest.”

The word comes from Middle English words ‘defense’ and ‘defence,’ which were borrowed from the Anglo-French words defens, defense, and defence. Those were borrowed from Medieval Latin words defensa and defensum.

The first known use of the word was in the 14th century. By 1932, it was also recognized as a verb.

A few synonyms of the word include:

  • Aegis
  • Armor
  • Guard
  • Screen
  • Wall
  • Egis
  • Buckler
  • Protection
  • Security
  • Ward
  • Ammunition
  • Cover
  • Safeguard
  • Shield

Phrases Containing the Word

There are a few phrases in the English language that contains the word. Let’s take a look at some examples:

  • Civil defense (the system of protective measures and emergency relief activities conducted by civilians in case of hostile attack, sabotage, or natural disaster)
  • Jump to someone’s defense (stand up for them)
  • On defense (ready to defend yourself)
  • In someone or something’s defense (in support of (someone or something) that is being verbally attacked or criticized)
  • Line of defense (a way of defending oneself)
  • Defense mechanism (an often unconscious mental process (such as repression) that makes possible compromise solutions to personal problems)

How to Use ‘Defense’ and ‘Defence’ in a Sentence

Now that you know which version of the word to use and the meaning, let’s take a look at some examples of how to use them in a sentence.

  • The military defense held up against the Russian invasion.
  • Your defense needs to be tighter if you want to play in the next game.
  • My team played great defense in last night’s basketball game.
  • My fiancée is often on the defense when I ask her how much she spent.
  • We put up a good defense after that horrible attack.
  • Our military needs better defense weapons.
  • In my defense, I was too tired to read anything when the teacher called on me.
  • Lindsay always jumped to Christian's defense whether it was called for or not - she's a true friend.

Remember that the words can be swapped out for one another whenever your audience changes from American to British or vice versa.

Concluding Thoughts on ‘Defense’ and ‘Defence’

To summarize, ‘defense’ is the American English spelling of the word, while ‘defence’ is the British American spelling of the word. They both mean the same thing and can be used interchangeably.

Wanna learn more about other confusing words and phrases you might encounter in the English language? Go check out our blog, where we’ve got an entire library of content dedicated to explaining common confusing words (including words with British and American versions).

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Written By:
Shanea Patterson
Shanea Patterson is a writer based in New York and loves writing for brands big and small. She has a master's degree in professional writing from New York University and a bachelor's degree in English from Mercy College.

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