1. serving to defend; protective: defensive armament.
  2. made or carried on for the purpose of resisting attack: defensive treaty; a defensive attitude.
  3. of or relating to defense.
  4. (of stocks, securities, etc.)
    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.
  5. excessively concerned with guarding against the real or imagined threat of criticism, injury to one’s ego, or exposure of one’s shortcomings.


  1. a position or attitude of defense: to be on the defensive about one’s mistakes.
  2. Obsolete. something that serves to defend.


  1. intended, suitable, or done for defence, as opposed to offence
  2. rejecting criticisms of oneself or covering up one’s failings


  1. a position of defence
  2. on the defensive in an attitude or position of defence, as in being ready to reject criticism

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.

see on the defensive.

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