Defence vs Defense: What’s the difference?

The two words ‘defence’ and ‘defense’ can often be confusing for those not sure of their differences, and not being aware of when to use either of them, can cause a writer to doubt his or her work, despite there not being anything wrong with it. This can also pose a problem for readers who are not so familiar with the English language and hence, may be puzzled by a word that is spelled differently from what they were expecting.

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Some of the common questions that these words may give rise to are as follows: –

  • Do these words have different functions or different meanings in a sentence?
  • Defence vs Defense – are they the variants of the same word?
  • Are they pronounced differently?



Both ‘Defence’ and ‘Defense’ are nouns, and they have a few different meanings in the English language: 

  • The act of defending against danger, attack, or injury
  • The act of defending a case in the court of law
  • The team or those specific players of a team attempting to stop the opposing team from scoring

Here are a few examples of the words in sentences,

  • The enemy attacked China, but China had a strong military defense ready to deploy.
  • The defence presented its case strongly, leaving the jury in serious thought.
  • AC Milan’s defense is the best in the league.


Now that the meaning of the two words is clear, you may be wondering about the difference between the two words, and how would you know when do you use which one. The answer to this question is surprisingly simple, as the only factor separating these two words is a difference in spelling due to a dialectal difference. Hence, there is no difference in the meaning or usage of defence and defense. They are simply two alternate spellings of the word. Hence, both the forms represent the correct spelling of the word, as long as it conforms with the dialect of the region the work has been published in.

Defense is most commonly used in American English.

  • The tribe planned a defense against the European invaders.
  • Adam runs a state of the art defense firm that runs contracts for the government.
  • Smudged evidence and confused witnesses can make the day for a defense attorney.

Defence has the same meaning but is most commonly used in works that follow British spelling.

  • The knights prepared to breach the defences of the at night, when its safeguards would be relaxed.
  • In his defence, he did not realise that he was hurting you so deeply.
  • Why did you not speak up in my defence when he was accusing me of stealing last night?

Now, let’s go over a few ways to use these words in English.


Use Case of defense:Defense is the American spelling of a noun that means a resistance against attack or injury. If you follow the usage trend of defense vs. defense across American publications, you will find that for the past 100 years, ‘defense’ has been the preferred spelling and is gaining worldwide influence as well.

Some also claim that this spelling is a better/more accurate spelling of the word because it holds a closer resemblance to the word from which it was derived (i.e., the Latin dēfēnsa). It also has a greater consistency with other derivative words like defensible.

For example,

  • One of the most foolproof defenses against lung cancer is to avoid smoking.
  • The football team has a poor offense but a great defense and hence, it makes it very hard for the opposition to score a single goal in the game.
  • The lack of a defense challenge does not automatically mean that the evidence becomes admissible.
  • NATO & the transatlantic alliance must continue to remain the bedrock of Europe’s defense strategy.
  • The defense says that Django was probably killed by a hitman for hire.
  • Cuts in the Defense Budget following the end of the Cold War saw the unit shut down in May 1992.
  • The home team’s defense performed abysmally this evening.
  • China’s military defense is becoming a serious threat to the US, which can no longer be ignored says state senator Raj.
  • In her defense, she should be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
  • He realized too late that none of his classmates would come to his defense.
  • Our defense needs to be strengthened immediately, or the future of the country would be a stake.
  • More than twenty eight percent of the overall federal budget is spent on defense and yet we failed to defend our borders against the attack.
  • The secretary of defense is briefing the president on risk posed by the threat and the enemy’s strength.
  • Mr. Potter was the then secretary of Defense of the nation and performed marvellously, successfully helping the country to build an ironclad defense that protected it through these trying times.
  • A thick overcoat is a pretty dependable defense against the cold.

Just as defense has an alternate spelling with c, so does offense, its opposite.


When to use defence: Defence has the same meaning and follows the same grammatical rules as defense, with the only difference being that this spelling is more commonly found in British English.

Fowler’s, a well-known British usage guide, lists defence as the preferred British English spelling. In fact, if you follow the trend of the usage of defence vs. defense in British English publications, you will find that it is used much more frequently. The use of ‘defence’ is also more common in Australia and Canada than that of ‘defense’.

For example,

  • If the little Princes or Princesses in the Royal Family of Great Britain were ever in any danger, many British citizens would rush to their defence.
  • The defence system of an island, like that of the United Kingdom, is different from that of a landlocked country like Slovakia.
  • Arsenal’s defence completely fell apart when the Manchester United strikers went on a rampage.
  • The country’s lagging defence budget just received a considerable boost from the new government.
  • The defence lawyer performed marvellously well at her first trial.
  • The defence budget was still growing and the taxpayers had begun questioning this move by the new government.
  • Britain has allied itself with the other emerging western powers in order to boost trade and strengthen defence.
  • The government is trying its hardest to save £1 million on defence expenditures.
  • I’ve never played in a defence position before so you might have to take the lead.
  • The team has a strong attack, but its defence is weak, leaving it vulnerable to the opposition’s attack.
  • They finally managed to crack the opposing team’s defence and scored a goal!


There is no difference in the usage of defence or defense when it comes to idioms and metaphors. The only difference that you need to keep in mind is when it comes to ‘defence’ – this spelling occurs in British English, meaning that you would encounter it in the United Kingdom and most countries that speak and follow English or were ruled by Great Britain at some point in their history. Similarly, ‘defense’ would occur in American English and hence, in literature written by American authors and poets.

There are several English idioms that make use of defense/defence, such as the following:

  • Nuremberg defense: to claim innocence in a crime because one was simply following the given orders. For instance, many leaders who were guilty of genocide during the Holocaust tried to use the Nuremberg defense to say that they should not be held responsible for following the orders given to them by their superiors.
  • The best defense is a good offense: The best way to protect one’s interests is to attack the stance of the opposing party. For instance, the best way to protect one’s team from having a goal scored against it is to first score a goal on the other team. An example of using this metaphor in a sentence would be as follows: Despite having solid evidence supporting his crime, the rapist was able to go scot free by attacking the victim’s character and raising strong questions regarding her motivations. I guess it’s true what they say about the best defense being a good offense.
  • To spring to one’s defense: Rushing to protect someone, especially against rumours and speculation. For instance, I think my neighbour, Adam, is being unfaithful to his wife, Kathy, but I can’t mention it in front of her as she is extremely loyal and always springs to her husband’s defense.


Though these words have the same meaning, it is advised that you should use the standard spelling that your readers are expecting.

If you’re worried about remembering defence vs defense, here’s a simple trick that can help you out. All you have to do is use the spelling of defense to remember that this version is preferred in the United States. How? Easy – both defense and the United States contain the letter s.

Alternatively, you can remember to consider the word ‘fence’ within defence. The sport of fencing originated in the United Kingdom ages before it appeared and became popular in the United States. Use this to remind yourself that the word with the spelling with c is the preferred spelling in Great Britain.

Even remembering one out of the two tricks is enough, because as soon as you know the origin of one, you can attribute the remaining use case to the word spelled otherwise.


Let’s test if you’re clear on the usage of defence vs defense with a little pop quiz.

Instructions to follow: Fill in the blank with the correct word, defence /defense in the correct form.

  1. We’ll need more than just guns and knives for our _____________ against the reanimated, flesh-eating zombies here in New York City.
  2. Many Londoners have had special, waterproof clothing designed as a ___________ against the rain.
  3. There are many dangerous, man-eating animals here in Australia, so you must always be on the _____________, even checking your shoes for spiders.
  4. Maria Lopez is the top ______________ contractor in Washington, D.C.
  5. The British actress was forced to go into hiding from the press after facing a public hue and cry for her conduct towards her children. She was scarcely allowed to say two words in her ____________.
  6. The Indian author was facing legal prosecution after allegations of plagiarism in his award winning novel, forcing him to hire the top attorney in his _________.

All done? Check the end of the page for the answers.


Defence vs Defense: Both words have the same meaning and have different spelling due to a difference in dialect of two countries. Although using either of these words would be correct, it is advised that you should use the preferred spelling for the country you and your readers reside in.

  • Defense is the word used in American spelling, so utilise this when writing in America, or for an American audience.
  • Defence is found in British English, hence, use this when writing for an audience in the United Kingdom or any other English-speaking country apart from the United States of America.

Why? Simply because using the preferred spelling for your readers’ country will make your writing easier to comprehend for them, increasing the pleasure they derive from it.


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