Someone on the defensive is concerned with justifying their actions or words. They have a defensive attitude as they try to protect themselves.

If you know that to defend is to protect, you have an idea what defensive means. When a person is acting defensive, they're trying to protect or justify themselves. People who are insecure or guilty tend to act defensive. Also, defensive players in football try to prevent the other side from scoring, just like defensive military strategies try to protect something. When someone has a defensive attitude, or is forced to defend something, we also say they're "on the defensive."

Definitions of defensive

n an attitude of defensiveness (especially in the phrase `on the defensive')

defensive attitude
Type of:
attitude, mental attitude
a complex mental state involving beliefs and feelings and values and dispositions to act in certain ways

adj attempting to justify or defend in speech or writing

justificative, justificatory
apologetic, excusatory
offering or expressing apology

adj intended or appropriate for defending against or deterring aggression or attack

defensive weapons”
“a defensive stance”
designed for defense from a surface position against air attack
defensive against enemy submarines
designed for defense against armored vehicles
attempting to or designed to prevent an opponent from winning or scoring
en garde
(fencing) in a defensive stance
intended or adapted to afford protection of some kind
for the purpose of attack rather than defense
having or showing determination and energetic pursuit of your ends
characterized by enmity or ill will
designed to inflict death or personal injury rather than material destruction
assaultive, attacking
disposed to attack
hit-and-run, tip-and-run
designed for or consisting of a brief attack followed by a quick escape
incursive, invading, invasive
involving invasion or aggressive attack
marauding, predatory, raiding
characterized by plundering or pillaging or marauding
on the offensive
actively attacking
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