Defence vs. Defense – How to Use Each Correctly

enhancedwriting/ August 30, 2017/ Uncategorized

defence versus defense

What’s the Difference Between Defense and Defence?

Defense and defence are two alternate spellings of the same word.

Defense is a noun that means to protect against harm. This spelling is most common in American English.

  • The Omaha tribe planned a defense against the European invaders.

Defence has the same meaning but is most common in British English.

  • The knights prepared a defence of the castle against the attacking French military.

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

Using Defense in a Sentence

When to use defense: Defense is the American spelling of a noun that means a resistance against attack or harm.

For example,

  • One of the best defenses against lung cancer is to avoid cigarette smoke.
  • The soccer team has a good offense but a poor defense. The goalie misses almost every time.

There are several idioms that use defense:

  • the Nuremberg defense: to claim innocence in a crime because one was just following orders
    • Many military leaders who were guilty of genocide tried to use the Nuremberg defense to say that they shouldn’t be responsible for doing what their superiors told them to do.
  • the best defense is a good offense: the best way to avoid having the other team score a goal is to first score a goal on the other team
    • Despite having weak defenders, the soccer team won many games because of their strong forwards. I guess it’s true what they say about the best defense being a good offense.
  • to spring to one’s defense: to rush to protect someone, especially against rumors
    • I think our boss is embezzling money from the company, but I can’t mention it in front of her secretary. The secretary always springs to the boss’s defense.

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

Using Defence in a Sentence

When to use defence: Defence has the exact same meaning and grammatical rules as defense. The only difference is that this spelling is more common in British English.

For example,

  • If the Queen of England were ever in any danger, many British citizens would rush to her defence.
  • The defence of an island, like that of the United Kingdom, is different than that of a landlocked country.

Defence occurs in the same idioms and expressions as defense. The only difference is that this spelling occurs in British English, meaning the United Kingdom and most countries that speak English or were at one point ruled by Britain.

Remembering Defense vs. Defence

Although these words have the same meaning, you should still use the standard spelling that your readers are expecting.

You can use the spelling of defense to remember that this version is preferred in the United States. Both defense and the United States contain the letter s.

Alternatively, you can think of the word fence within defence. The sport of fencing originated in the United Kingdom long before it appeared in the United States. This can remind you that the spelling with c is the preferred spelling in Britain.

Outside Examples

  • Gales thrived on offense and defense as the Warhawks defeated the Bulldogs 15-0 in a nonconference game at Waukegan. –Chicago Tribune
  • Boko Haram fighters entered villages in the Nganzai area on Wednesday, slitting throats and using guns to kill at least 15 people while injuring two others, said Modu Jialta, a member of a local self-defense group. –New York Post
  • “I want to thank the Australian Defence Force, and the crew of the HMAS Melville in particular, for their assistance in the search and recovery effort of our MV-22 that went down off the coast of Australia,” Lt. Gen. Lawrence Nicholson of the Marine Expeditionary Force‎ said in a statement Monday. –USA Today
  • Total military spending by Western Europe last year grew for the first time since 2009, according to Jane’s Defence Budgets Report, an industry publication. –LA Times

Quiz: Defence vs. Defense

Instructions: Fill in the blank with the correct word, defence or defense in the correct form.

  • We’ll need lots of guns and some knives for our _____________ against the zombies here in New York City.
  • Many of citizens of London have special clothing designed to be waterproof as a ___________ against the rain.
  • There are many poisonous animals here in Australia, so you must always be on the _____________, even checking your shoes for spiders.

See answers below.

Article Summary

Should I use defense or defence? Although both of these words are correct, you should use the preferred spelling for whatever country you and your readers live in.

  • Defense is the American spelling, so use this when writing in America, or for an American audience.
  • Defence is the British spelling, so use this when writing for an audience in the United Kingdom or any other English speaking country that is not America.

Using the preferred spelling for your country will make your writing easier to understand for your readers.


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