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[dih-fen-duh nt or especially in court for 1, -dant] /dɪˈfɛn dənt or especially in court for 1, -dænt/
Law. a person, company, etc., against whom a claim or charge is brought in a court (opposed to plaintiff).
Obsolete, defender.
making one's defense; defending:
a defendant corporation.
Obsolete, defensive.
1275-1325; Middle English defendaunt < Anglo-French (Middle French, Old French defendant). See defend, -ant
Related forms
nondefendant, noun
undefendant, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples from the web for defendants
  • It was not immediately known if the prosecutor planned to retry the other defendants.
  • The indictments in the show trials, and the defendants' coerced statements, have added ever more fanciful layers.
  • If it stands, no individual defendants will remain in the case.
  • defendants in lawsuits don't generally pay out anything to plaintiffs without an agreement for settlement.
  • Their election pledges to be tough on crime often translate into cavalier, or unjust, treatment for individual defendants.
  • He said that courts have become tougher places for corporate defendants in the past year and a half.
  • Cameras might make witnesses cagey, or unduly humiliate defendants.
  • He demanded speedy trials, where formerly defendants could intimidate witnesses and drag out proceedings.
  • Making fast food addictive could help the defendants as well.
  • Yet these were not civilian trials but military tribunals with limited legal rights for the defendants.
British Dictionary definitions for defendants


a person against whom an action or claim is brought in a court of law Compare plaintiff
making a defence; defending
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for defendants



c.1400, in the legal sense, from French défendant, present participle of défendre (see defend). Earliest use in English was as a present participle adjective meaning "defending" (c.1300).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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defendants in Culture

defendant definition

The party that is being sued in court. (Compare plaintiff.)

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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