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Difference Between Defence and Defense

defenseDefence vs. Defense

The words “defence” and “defense” can mean a lot of things, but many still ask whether they are the same or not. The answer is: They are indeed the same. To know why and how they have the same meanings, read further.

Foremost, it is important to know that there are two major notations of spellings that are widely accepted today worldwide. These are the British and the English spellings. Back in the 18th century, the English spellings were not standardized which led to much confusion after several British-spelled words surfaced and were made public. To the common knowledge of most people, Webster has been the major proponent of the English system. In this regard, “defense” is the American spelling whereas “defence” is the British counterpart pertaining to the same term. Australian, Canadian, and U.K. language users prefer the British notation whereas the American system is mainly used in North and South America and in some parts of Asia.

In sports, the words “defense” or “defence” can also mean the way a team or player defends or protects his area of responsibility from the offending attacks of the other opposing team. In many sports, such as ice hockey, water polo, basketball, and volleyball, among others, this term is frequently being used by the coaches, fans, and the players themselves.

In terms of the military scene, the words can pertain to the act of protecting oneself either through the use of protective devices, weaponry, the terrain advantage, and one’s body parts in the act of defense or defence. More so, this word can imply the overall tactics that a unit or units employ to fend off an attack.

The word is used in many different areas in the sciences and law. It can be used in a court of law to mean the counteraction of the defendant of any charges being placed against him or her. By denying the said charges, he or she is then making a defense or defence. Moreover, the word can also pertain to a mechanism in the body, specifically, the “defense mechanism.” This term is frequently applied in the sciences such as in psychology. The word can also act as a noun wherein it becomes the subject being spoken about like: “The main defense of the port was the sea wall.”

In summary, the main difference between the words “defense” and “defence” is that “defense” is the English-spelled word whereas “defence” is the British notation of the same word bearing the exact same meaning.

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  1. “Australian, Canadian, and U.K. language users prefer the British notation, whereas the American system is mainly used in North and South America, and some parts of Asia.”

    I am not aware of any country in South America that uses US orthography, whereas Guyana follows UK orthography. In the Caribbean and Central America, orthography is split by colonial influence – the former British Caribbean and Belize using UK orthography and the American territories using US orthography. Similarly in Asia and the Asia Pacific regions the American territories (and the former colony, the Philippines) follow US orthography, but all the others where English still has official status (India, Pakistan, Singapore, Hong Kong and various Pacific nations), and where it is still commonly used in education (Malaysia), the standard orthography follows the UK. Thus, overwhelmingly in Asia the standard orthography follows the UK.

    Thus with regard to geographical spread of spelling orthography, you will find that Webster holds sway in the US and in dependent territories and former colonies only.

    Therefore, stating that “Webster has been the major proponent of the English system” is not correct. Webster has been a major (in your words) proponent of the orthography proposed by Webster and of North American usage, whereas Johnson’s “a Dictionary of the English Language”, published in 1755, was the pre-eminent reference in Britain (and originally in North America as well, before Webster) until the first publication in 1988 of the Oxford English Dictionary, which has since been the pre-eminent reference in Great Britain.

  2. The distinction between “English” and “British” in the article is not well chosen. Since both are English, it would be better to say American and British if you don’t want to add English to the term. In Canada, the standard dictionary has been the Canadian Oxford, but I have recently seen the Canadian Collins getting a lot of use. I quite like Collins products and use them for other languages as well.

    • Seconded. It seems that the article uses ‘English’ to mean ‘American English’ and ‘British’ to mean ‘British English’, except when it refers to ‘the American spelling’. Given that the entire article is about the confusion between the British and American spellings of a word, this is unhelpful, to say the least.

      To make this clearer, the author should at least specify where they’re from. I assume, having fought through the article, that the author must be American, but there’s no obvious indication that this is an American website.

      • Yes. There seems to be a degree of privilege in the writing that assumes that the American English standard is the default setting for English, as opposed to the weird version that spells things wrong that they use over in… England.

  3. I’m sure the author just made a tiny slip-up there in the beginning of the firts paragraph, as can be gleaned from the context…

  4. “Australian, Canadian, and U.K. language users prefer the British notation, whereas the American system is mainly used in North and South America, and some parts of Asia.”

    The above statement implies North Americans use the American spelling. I think it would be more accurate to say the American English spelling is used in the U.S., as Canada covers half of North America.

    As well, I don’t believe that Webster is considered “the major proponent” of English worldwide.

  5. Why can’t we just call American English ‘American’ and cut them off completely?They have canabalised (or should that be canabalized) the language to such an extent that they now think they originated it!

    And please Microsoft, soft defaulting to US English!

    • You sir, just “canabalised” the word cannibalism.

      I am not bothering to comment on “soft defaulting”.
      Oh my, I think I just did. Oh well…

      @JD below
      You sir, are a genious.

      ^note the o^, see what I did there?


  6. The correct spelling is “defense” as the word is derived from the latin “defenso”. The Magna Carta in it’s original latin dated 1215, uses the word in article 23 and 47 where it is also spelled with an “s”.
    If you wish to use a “c” it is fine with me. I imply no disrespect.

    The word “de-fence” could mean to “remove the fence”.

    • Wherever you’re from, I’m assuming the U.S.A, thank you for the entertainment your stupidity brought me.

      • I prefer International English spellings, but I must admit that I find little logic in spelling ‘defence’ and ‘offence’ with a C rather than an S.

        It makes more sense to spell these words ‘defense’ and ‘offense’ not only because of etymological history (Latin and French roots which both retain the S), but because you have words like ‘defensive’ and ‘offensive’, which are always spelt with an S in both American English and International English spellings (not with a C).

  7. I was going to read it till you told me to read it in the last sentence of your intro – don’t like being told what to do, so i did not read it. Wonder what you said….

  8. Thanks.
    very useful meanwhile contains complete description.

  9. surely the article should be titled “DifferenSe between Defense and Defence” 🙂

  10. So American is English but English is British?

  11. They are precisely the same thing. The only actual difference is where the person is writing the term. If the person lives in the US or Canada, they will use the term “defense.” If the person lives in the UK or Australia, on the other hand, then they would use the term “defence.” This is similar to how in the UK, they would use an “s” instead of a “z.” By way of example, in the US, we would spell realize with a “z” whereas in the UK they would spell it as realise with an “s.”

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