Share on FacebookShare on TwitterShare on LinkedinShare via emailShare via Facebook Messenger

Defence vs. Defense—Which Should I Use?

Updated on December 16, 2020Grammar

Let’s dispel a spelling mystery. It’s defense against defence, and if you think it’s one of the British English vs. American English things—you might be onto something.

Defence and defense are both correct ways to spell the same word. The difference between them, the fact that one’s spelled with a c and the other with an s, comes down to the part of the world in which they are used. In the United States, people spell it with an sdefense. An American would write something like this:

Of course our team won; we had vastly superior defense .

Here’s a tip: Want to make sure your writing shines? Grammarly can check your spelling and save you from grammar and punctuation mistakes. It even proofreads your text, so your work is extra polished wherever you write.

Your writing, at its best
Grammarly helps you communicate confidently

In parts of the world where British English is used, they use the spelling with a cdefence. A Brit would write:

There’s no defence that could have stopped that attack.

This difference in spelling carries over to the inflected forms of the word only partially. In words like “defenceless,” “defencelessly,” or “defenceman,” the British spelling retains its c, instead of changing it for an American s—”defenseless,” “defenselessly,” or “defenseman.” But when the suffix added to the word begins with an i, in both American and in British English the resulting word is spelled with an s:

He was added to the team because of his strong defencive performance.

He was added to the team because of his strong defensive performance.

The platoon had to move to a more easily defencible position.

The platoon had to move to a more easily defensible position.

It should also be noted that you might come across the word defense being used as a verb. This is particularly common in the US when talking about sports, when the word is used instead “defend against”:

The team defenses the opponent’s advance.

The team defends against the opponent’s advance.

This usage is considered incorrect by some style guides, and it would be better if you didn’t use defense as a verb outside the context of sports.

Examples of defence and defense

Centre-back Joel Matip’s return is set to bring a calming influence to Liverpool’s defence but manager Jurgen Klopp has tried to deflect attention away from the 25-year-old.
The Daily Mail

For some like Veronica, a research scholar in chemistry, mastering a few self-defence techniques has provided an opportunity to get fitter.
The Hindu

The team needs to sustain its defense no matter who it is facing.
The Columbus Dispatch

Fowler, who struggled defensively early in his career, played spectacular defense with the Cubs, after he started playing deeper.
The Huffington Post

Your writing, at its best.
Works on all your favorite websites
iPhone and iPad KeyboardAndroid KeyboardChrome BrowserSafari BrowserFirefox BrowserEdge BrowserWindows OSMicrosoft Office
Related Articles
Writing, grammar, and communication tips for your inbox.