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“Defence” vs. “Defense”—Which Should You Use?

Updated on July 1, 2023Grammar

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

Defence vs. defense: Whats the difference?

The difference between defence and defense is the spelling guidelines of British and American English.

  • defence with a c is the correct spelling for British English. 
  • defense with an s is the correct spelling for American English

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.

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”defend against” is used:

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.

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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

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