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[dih-fen-siv] /dɪˈfɛn sɪv/
serving to defend; protective:
defensive armament.
made or carried on for the purpose of resisting attack:
defensive treaty; a defensive attitude.
of or relating to defense.
  1. able to provide moderately steady growth with minimal risk:
    The bank has put a large percentage of its assets in defensive rather than growth stocks.
  2. considered stable and relatively safe for investment, especially during a decline in the economy.
excessively concerned with guarding against the real or imagined threat of criticism, injury to one's ego, or exposure of one's shortcomings.
a position or attitude of defense:
to be on the defensive about one's mistakes.
Obsolete. something that serves to defend.
Origin of defensive
1350-1400; < Medieval Latin dēfēnsīvus (see defense, -ive); replacing Middle English defensif < Middle French < Medieval Latin, as above
Related forms
defensively, adverb
defensiveness, noun
nondefensive, adjective
nondefensively, adverb
nondefensiveness, noun
overdefensive, adjective
overdefensively, adverb
overdefensiveness, noun
semidefensive, adjective
semidefensively, adverb
semidefensiveness, noun
undefensive, adjective
undefensively, adverb
undefensiveness, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for defensive
  • defensive realists are aware that belligerence has traditionally been unsuccessful compared to retaliatory action.
  • Some of these sites have defensive characteristics and appear to have been fortified in antiquity.
  • Many create defensive compounds to fight off deadly bacteria or parasites.
  • Stick to what you know, elaborate on what you can, and smile to avoid appearing defensive or otherwise unnerved.
  • Sometimes, it is forced to do so: but the tone has generally been defensive.
  • The angle a punter needs is the one that avoids the defensive rush.
  • Players used a trackball to launch defensive weapons, protecting their cities from incoming missile attacks.
  • His responses were terse to the point of being defensive.
  • Ideas range from defensive buildings to ceremonial centers and homes, the study authors say.
  • Maybe you should let your curiosity freedom enough to investigate, instead of sounding so defensive.
British Dictionary definitions for defensive


intended, suitable, or done for defence, as opposed to offence
rejecting criticisms of oneself or covering up one's failings
a position of defence
on the defensive, in an attitude or position of defence, as in being ready to reject criticism
Derived Forms
defensively, adverb
defensiveness, noun
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 defensive

c.1400 (adj. and noun), from French défensif (14c.), from Medieval Latin defensivus, from defens-, past participle stem of Latin defendere (see defend). Of persons, "alert to reject criticism," from 1919. Related: Defensively; defensiveness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Idioms and Phrases with defensive


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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