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Understanding Defence vs. Defense (Difference, Definition, Examples)

Defense and defence are spelled differently, one is spelled with s and the other with c, but they have the same meaning. Yet they fall under different language forms of English. Which word form should get used? And when?

What is the difference between defence and defense?

Defence is used in the British English language and is the word that is spelt with c. An easy way to recall that the British use defence with the letter c is Britain’s association with the Crown. Which starts with c. The American English language uses the defense with an s, an easy way to recall it is with the word States (part of United States of America).

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Defence is also used in the Commonwealth countries like Australia, South Africa, and Canada. It is essential to be consistent with the spelling in your written communications. If you are writing for an American audience, then use defense with an s and be consistent throughout your writing piece, and alternatively, vice-versa when writing for British, Canadian, or Australian audiences.

DefenseAmerican English
DefenceBritish English

The point to be noted is that the distinction of the spelling extends to the derivatives of both the variations such as defense / defence, defenseless / defenceless, defenses / defences , but the words defensiveness, defensive, and defensively all use s in both the British and American English languages.

Defensethe action of defending from or resisting offense.

What Does the Word “Defense” Mean?

The word defense means the act of protection of something or someone from criticism or an offense. Defense is used in American communication.

Some examples:

  • He wrote an article in the newspapers in defense of freedom of speech.
  • He marched with the people in the defense of minority rights.
  • She stood up in defense of her friend.
  • If you wield a sword in defense, then you have the risk of it being used against you.

What Does the Word “Defence” Mean?

The word defence has the same meaning as the word defense, it means to protect something or someone against criticism or an offense.

Defence is used in British English.

With the examples below, its simple to make out the difference between defence vs defense:

  • Our immune system is our prime defence against illnesses.
  • She is using cynicism as a defence mechanism.
  • Ukraine has deployed its entire defence at the frontline.
  • She said so in his defence.

When to Use “Defense”

The word defense is used in the context when fighting against the opposition or protecting something or someone. It could be national-level defense, a defense lawyer, or defense of a soccer team.

Defense is nothing but the opposite of offense. If you remember this while trying to decide between defence vs defense, you won’t have an issue with spelling appropriately. You must use the word defense when defending someone or something.

It could be as simple as defending your idea by way of putting forth your suggestions firmly to an audience that is not in your favor. In case of justice-related matters, a defense lawyer will work to prove your innocence.

Defense could also be an excuse for your own action, such as, I hit him back in my defense.


  • She is insistent on holding her own defense.
  • The defense lawyer pleaded his client’s innocence, but the jury found defendant guilty.
  • I play as defense in soccer.
  • 15% of the state finances are spent on defense procurement.
  • The land belongs to defense ministry.

When to Use “Defence”

Defence does not mean pulling down the fence or removing the fence. It is the British spelling for the word defense, and it means performing the act of defending or protecting something or someone. Wearing a cross around your neck may be defence against evil.

Defence should be used in communication to support someone or something and can also be used to express a physical act of defense.


  • The two parties involved hated each other to such an extent that the two couldn’t come to a mutual understanding in the defence of their interests.
  • A particularly strong defence was put up against the opposition from debating the issue any further.
  • The team could not have put up any defence under these circumstances.
  • Nick, who initially struggled defensively in his role, played superb defence against the Hawks once he started playing in the deep.

Can Defense Be a Verb?

You should not use defense or defence as a verb in your formal communication. However, on some occasions, especially in sports-related contexts it can be used as a verb to express *defend against*, for example, Manchester United defended against the Liverpool F.C. offense superbly tonight.

However, even in the context of sports, it should be used at the minimum. For instance, The AP stylebook mentions not to use defence or defense as a verb.

How to remember which form to use

Several clues may give you hints about when to use the spellings of defence vs defense.

Although these words may confuse the best of us, there are particular ways to remember how to use them proficiently when writing.

The most common way is to think of defence with a c used in British English as it relates to the British Crown.

In the case of defense with an s, you can think of the American language with s standing for “states,” as in the United States of America.

Common Questions

English is one of the languages in which there are many words that sound alike but are spelled differently (referred to as homophones).

Here are some common queries about defence and defense:

  • What is different between defense or defence?
  • Why is defence spelled differently from defense?
  • Who does defence mean?
  • Does defence and defense mean the same?
  • Is defense British or American English?
  • How do Australians spell defense?
  • Why is British English different from American English?
  • How is defence spelt in Canadian English?

What is the defence or defense in football?

In a variety of sports in which teams are involved, you often find the words, defence or defense. While this may perplex you, you should know that, where sports are concerned, defence vs defense are technically the same positions that members of a sports team take in any given field of sports.

For instance, in American sports, playing defense positions is common. On the other hand, defense positions are played in British sports.

These positions usually refer to the sport of football and the opposite position is called offence.

Which form does the UK use?

As mentioned before, the UK or British English uses the spelling “defence“. This is also known as the Commonwealth spelling, as it is used in English all over the British Commonwealth region.


  1. Defence vs. defense—Which Should I Use? | Grammarly
  2. “Defence” vs. “Defense”: Which Is Correct? (yourdictionary.com)
  3. Defence vs. Defense | Difference & Example Sentences (scribbr.com)

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About the author

Dalia Y.: Dalia is an English Major and linguistics expert with an additional degree in Psychology. Dalia has featured articles on Forbes, Inc, Fast Company, Grammarly, and many more. She covers English, ESL, and all things grammar on GrammarBrain.

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