Defence vs. Defense: What’s the Difference?

Grammar Rules updated on  September 5, 2023 2 min read

The main difference between defence and defense is that defence with a "c" is used in UK English, while defense with an "s" is used in US English.

Defence vs. defense meaning

Defence and defense have the exact same meaning:

Defence/defense: (noun) a person, group of people, thing, action, or idea meant to provide protection

They’re not homophones or homonyms since they mean the same thing. So what is the difference between defence and defense? Defence is the correct spelling in the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, while the US stands alone in using the s spelling.

You can thank Noah Webster, of dictionary fame, for this. Most of the differences between US and UK English spellings are a result of his efforts to simplify the language for Americans. And it worked—in US English, the spelling of defense doesn’t change when a suffix is added, but in other English variants, it does when the suffix begins with i.

US English Other English variants
defense defence
defenseless defenceless
defensive defensive
defensible defensible
defenseman defenceman

Defence and defense examples

As you can see in the definition above, defence/defense can be a term for a wide range of things, tangible or intangible. The example sentences below help to demonstrate some of these meanings, and you could use either defence or defense in any of them, depending on whether you’re writing in US English.

She loved him, and she wished he would let down his defenses.

The army mounted a defense against the incoming onslaught.

In my defense, I had no idea that the work wasn’t done.

As part of his defense, his wife testified to the court that he had been at home asleep on the evening in question.

A moat was just one of the castle’s numerous defenses.

His tendency to shut down when confronted was a defense mechanism.

A moat was just one of the castle’s numerous defenses.

The following are examples of these words with suffixes added. Unlike the root word, some of these are not interchangeable in the US or other variants of English.

Her mistreatment of her daughter was indefensible. (all English)

The goalie fell onto the pitch with a knee injury, leaving the goal defenceless against a breakaway. (non-US)

I’m trying to help you, not criticize you, so there’s no need to get defensive. (all English)

Mark Giordano is a defenceman for the Toronto Maple Leafs. (non-US)

Writing in US vs UK English

No matter which English variant you’re using, QuillBot can help you nail the correct spelling for defence vs. defense and other words. It recognizes spelling, punctuation, and grammar differences between US, UK, Canadian, and Australian English.

Need help with correct spelling for defence vs. defense?
QuillBot's Grammar Checker is here to assist you with that!

Try QuillBot’s tools today, and you can be confident that whether you’re working on a novel, ad copy, or an essay, you can write like a whiz and proofread like a pro.

How is defense spelled in Canada?

Canadian English reads like a mixture of UK and US English, but when it comes to words ending in -ense/-ence, Canadians side with the UK and use the c. They spell it defence.

Is it defence or defense in British English?

The correct spelling in British English is defence. However, the c changes to an s when you add a suffix that begins with i, such as in defensive.


Hannah Skaggs

Along with Meredith Harris

Hannah, a writer and editor since 2017, specializes in clear and concise academic and business writing. She has mentored countless scholars and companies in writing authoritative and engaging content.

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