v. de·fend·ed, de·fend·ing, de·fends
a. To make or keep safe from danger, attack, or harm: a vaccine to defend the body from infection.
b. To engage in or be prepared to engage in battle to prevent (a population or area, for example) from being captured or occupied by an enemy.
a. To attempt to prevent the opposition from scoring while playing in or near (a goal or area of a field, for example).
b. To be responsible for guarding (an opposing player).
3. To compete against a challenger in an attempt to retain (a championship).
4. To support or maintain, as by argument or action; justify: defended his friend's behavior.
a. To represent (a defendant) in a civil or criminal action.
b. To attempt to disprove or invalidate (the claim made by a lawsuit or prosecution): defend a class action; defend a criminal case.
1. To make a defense.
2. Sports To play defense.
[Middle English defenden, from Old French defendre, from Latin dēfendere, to ward off; see gwhen- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Synonyms: defend, protect, guard, preserve, shield, safeguard
These verbs mean to make or keep safe from danger, attack, or harm. Defend implies repelling or being ready to repel an attack: The army defended the border against the enemy. The politician responded quickly to defend his reputation.
Protect often suggests keeping something safe by coming between it and any threat of harm or injury: Police protected the stores from looters. Sunglasses protect your eyes.
Guard suggests keeping watch: Their dog guarded the house against intruders.
To preserve something is to protect it from future harm or alteration: An environmental group purchased the wetland to preserve it from commercial development.
Shield suggests providing a barrier against something dangerous or destructive: "Grant's remaining units made their way through heavy timber ... in turn, however, the woods shielded them from Confederate bullets until they were almost on top of the enemy line" (Brooks D. Simpson).
Safeguard implies the vigilant protection of something of great value or importance: The Bill of Rights safeguards our individual liberties.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
The American Heritage Dictionary Blog
Check out our blog, updated regularly, for new words and revised definitions, interesting images from the 5th edition, discussions of usage, and more.
American Heritage Dictionary Products
The American Heritage Dictionary, 5th Edition
The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms
The American Heritage Roget's Thesaurus
Curious George's Dictionary
The American Heritage Children's Dictionary
The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots
The American Heritage Student Grammar Dictionary
The American Heritage Desk Dictionary + Thesaurus
The American Heritage Science Dictionary
The American Heritage Dictionary of Business Terms
The American Heritage Student Dictionary
The American Heritage Essential Student Thesaurus