defense (n.)

c. 1300, "action of guarding or shielding from attack or injury; act of defending by fighting; a fortified place of refuge," from Old French defense, from Latin defensus, past participle of defendere "ward off, protect" (see defend). It also arrived (without the final -e) from Old French defens, from Latin defensum "thing protected or forbidden," neuter past participle of defendere.

Middle English defens was assimilated into defense, but not before it inspired the alternative spelling defence, via the same tendency that produced hence (hennis), pence (penies), dunce (Duns). Webster made the -se form standard in U.S., but British has preferred defence, and compare fence (n.).

Meaning "a speech or writing intended to repel or disprove a charge or accusation" is from late 14c., as is the sense of "method adopted by one against whom a lawsuit has been brought." Meaning "science of defense against attack" (in fencing, boxing, etc.) is from c. 1600. Used by 1935 as a euphemism for "national military resources," but the notion (non-euphemistic) was in Middle English: man of defense "warrior," ship of defense "warship." Defenses "natural weapons of an animal" is by 1889. Defense mechanism in psychology is from 1913.

Origin and meaning of defense

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Definitions of defense
defense (n.)
(military) military action or resources protecting a country against potential enemies;
they were developed for the defense program
they died in the defense of Stalingrad
Synonyms: defence / defensive measure
defense (n.)
protection from harm;
sanitation is the best defense against disease
Synonyms: defence
defense (n.)
(sports) the team that is trying to prevent the other team from scoring;
his teams are always good on defense
Synonyms: defence / defending team
defense (n.)
the justification for some act or belief;
he offered a persuasive defense of the theory
Synonyms: defence / vindication
defense (n.)
(psychiatry) an unconscious process that tries to reduce the anxiety associated with instinctive desires;
Synonyms: defense mechanism / defense reaction / defence mechanism / defence reaction / defence
defense (n.)
the defendant and his legal advisors collectively;
the defense called for a mistrial
Synonyms: defence / defense team / defense lawyers
defense (n.)
the speech act of answering an attack on your assertions;
in defense he said the other man started it
Synonyms: refutation / defence
defense (n.)
an organization of defenders that provides resistance against attack;
he joined the defense against invasion
Synonyms: defence / defense force / defence force
defense (n.)
a structure used to defend against attack;
the artillery battered down the defenses
Synonyms: defensive structure / defence
defense (n.)
a defendant's answer or plea denying the truth of the charges against him;
he gave evidence for the defense
Synonyms: defence / denial / demurrer
defense (n.)
the act of defending someone or something against attack or injury;
a good boxer needs a good defense
defense against hurricanes is an urgent problem
Synonyms: defence
Defense (n.)
the federal department responsible for safeguarding national security of the United States; created in 1947;
Synonyms: Department of Defense / Defense Department / United States Department of Defense / DoD