Defence vs Defense | Meaning, Spelling & Examples

UK vs US updated on  January 9, 2024 4 min read
Defence and defense are two ways of spelling the same noun, which is used to refer to the legal plea of someone on trial for a crime, to a sports tactic used to prevent the other team from scoring, and to the act of protecting something.

The spelling depends on the type of English you use.

  • In British English, “defence” is standard.
  • In American English, “defense” is the only correct spelling.
It’s important to choose one spelling and use it consistently. The QuillBot Grammar Checker can help you with this.

Examples: Defence vs defense
Carl was granted a new trial after his defence/defense was deemed incompetent.
I was rooting for the defence/defense to stop the opponent from scoring.
Lorelei came to her friend’s defence/defense when he was accused of shoplifting.

In my defence or defense

The same spelling difference applies to the phrase in my defence or in my defense, which is used to excuse something you have done.

  • In British English, “in my defence” is standard.
  • In American English, “in my defense” is most common.
You can also use the phrase with a different possessive determiner, such as his, her, or their, when you’re justifying something someone else has done.

Examples: In my defence or defense in a sentence
In my defence/defense, I wasn’t aware that the shop closes this early.
In his defence/defense, he didn’t know his ex was going to show up to the party.
In their defence/defense, they’ve never played hockey before.

Defensive, defensiveness, and defensible

The spelling difference doesn’t apply to versions of defence or defense whose suffix begins with “i.” In these cases, the American and British versions of the word are both spelled with an “s.”

Examples are:

  • Defensive (adjective): Used or intended to protect
  • Defensiveness (noun): The trait of being avoidant or unaccepting of criticism
  • Defensible (adjective): Justifiable by argument
But the spelling difference does carry over to other related words, such as defenceless/defenseless and defenceman/defenseman.

Examples: Other forms of defence or defense in a sentence
Harry got very defensive when a stranger criticized his parenting style.
Hannah’s constant defensiveness in the workplace created a tense and uncooperative atmosphere.
Tom’s actions were controversial, but some considered them morally defensible under the circumstances.

Main differences between American and British English

American and British English are very similar, but there are a few main differences in spelling. Five important differences are:

Difference

Rule

Examples

-or vs -our

In American English, many Latin-derived words end in -or.

In British English, these same words end in -our.

Behavior or behaviour
Labor or labour
Favor or favour
Favorite or favourite
Color or colour
Honor or honour

-er vs -re

In American English, some French, Latin, or Greek words end in -er.

In British English, these same words end in -re.

Theater or theatre
Center or centre
Meter or metre
Liter or litre
Saber or sabre
Fiber or fibre

-ize vs -ise

In American English, many Greek-derived words end in -yze or -ize.

In British English, these words end in -yse or -ise.

Realize or realise
Recognize or recognise
Analyze or analyse
Organisation or organization
Minimize or minimise
Finalize or finalise

-ed vs -t

In American English, most verbs are regular and form their past tense with the suffix -ed.

In British English, some of these verbs are irregular and form their past tense with the suffix -t.

Learned or learnt
Burned or burnt
Kneeled or knelt
Dreamed or dreamt
Smelled or smelt
Spelled or spelt

Single vs double consonant

In American English, many words are spelled with a single consonant.

In British English, these same words are spelled with a double consonant.

Modeling or modelling
Traveling or travelling
Canceled or cancelled
Labeled or labelled
Buses or busses
Focused or focussed

Do you want to know more about common mistakes, commonly confused words, or other language topics? Check out some of our other language articles full of examples and quizzes.


Common mistakes

Commonly confused words

Rhetoric

Whoa or woah

Advisor vs adviser

Metonymy

Theirs or their's

Accept vs except

Synecdoche

Ours or our's

Affect vs effect

Verbal irony

Forty or fourty

Among vs between

Irony

Sence or sense

Anymore vs any more

Grawlix


Frequently asked questions about defence vs defense

Is it PhD defense or defence?

Defence and defense are two spellings of the same noun. The spelling depends on the type of English.

  • In American English, “defense” is most common, so it’s “PhD defense.”
  • In British English, “defence” is standard, so it’s “PhD defence.”

The same difference applies to similar words, such as offence or offense, licence or license, and pretence or pretense.

It's important to choose one spelling and use it consistently. The QuillBot Grammar Checker can help you with this.

Is it thesis defense or defence?

Defence and defense are two spellings of the same noun. The spelling depends on the type of English.

  • In American English, “defense” is most common, so it’s thesis defense.
  • In British English, “defence” is standard, so it’s thesis defence.

The same difference applies to similar words, such as offence or offense, licence or license, and pretence or pretense.

It's important to choose one spelling and use it consistently. The QuillBot Grammar Checker can help you with this.

Is it self-defense or self-defence?

Defence and defense are two spellings of the same noun. The spelling depends on the type of English.

  • In American English, “defense” is most common, so self-defense is correct.
  • In British English, “defence” is standard, so self-defence is correct.

In both cases, also make sure to hyphenate the term.

The same distinction applies to similar words, such as offence or offense, licence or license, and pretence or pretense. It's important to choose one spelling and use it consistently. The QuillBot Grammar Checker can help you with this.

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Julia Merkus

Julia has master's degrees in Linguistics and Language and speech pathology. Her expertise lies in grammar, language and speech disorders, foreign language learning, and child language acquisition.

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