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Defence vs. defense: how to choose the right word

One common error seen in many English write-ups is the correct use of defense or defence. Both words are alternate spellings of a noun which means to protect something from harm.

Kimberly Ann Potts
Kimberly Ann Potts

Difference between “defence” or “defense”

One common error seen in many English write-ups is the correct use of defense or defence. Both words are alternate spellings of a noun which means to protect something from harm. However, most people don’t know how and when to use the two words.

“Defense” is the American spelling of the noun, and “defence” is the British version. For example, in the American setting, the correct sentence would be:

The Indians defense against the British was strong.

However, in the British setting, the correct sentence would be:

The Indians defence against the British was strong.

When to use “defense” or “defence”

While both words mean the same thing, you should know when to use defense or defence in your write-ups.

Use “defense” when writing in America or writing to an American audience.

Use “defence” when writing in Britain or writing to the British audience.

Below are examples of using the two words.

Defense (American Use) Defence (British Use)
The US national team has a good offense but a bad defense. The English team has a good offense but a bad defence.
If anything should happen to the US President Joe Biden, his security detail will rush to his defense. If anything should happen to the Queen, her people will rush to her defence.
Many soldiers were using the Nuremberg defense during the war. Many soldiers were using the Nuremberg defence during the war.

How to remember “defense vs. defence” usage

The question “Is it defense or defence?” is one of the things people with an imperfect tie to British and American English would say? First, the two words mean the same thing. However, the main problem for non-native British and Americans is remembering when and how to use it.

For easy remembrance, use the fact that the United States and “defense” contain the same letter “s.” Another way to remember the right one is to use “fence” from “defence.” Fencing is a sport that started in Britain. Therefore, you can associate it with defence.

Using “defence” or “defense” can be tricky in English grammar. However, you will write better by understanding their origin and your targeted audience.

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Kimberly Ann Potts

My name is Kimberly. I'm an experienced copywriter and editor. I like writing about complex topics to help readers find the correct answers.


Milena Lazova

I'm an ESL teacher with over 7 years of experience in providing original content. I really like writing educational articles which may help others learn some aspects of English.

Valentina Dordevic

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Beth Taylor

Hello! My name is Beth. I'm from France. I'm a French and English native speaker and I really like writing.