Defence or Defense - Is It Spelled with a "C" or with an "S"?
There has always been confusion over how to properly spell "defence" or "defense". As I sit here writing this article, my laptop's automatic spell check is indicating that defence with a "c" is spelled incorrectly and defense with an "s" is spelled correctly. So what are the facts, do they differ in meaning, and is there actually a correct way to spell it? Let's dive right in to this ongoing debate.
The Proper Way to Spell Defence or Defense
Yes, there is a proper way to spell "defence" or "defense" and it depends on your target audience and your geographic location.
Defence with a "C"
Defence with a "c" is the proper way to spell the word in British English, which includes not only Great Britain, but also Canada and Australia. If you live in one of these primarily British English geographic locations, and your target audience is in one of these geographic locations, then the proper way to spell the word would be "defence" with a "c".
Defense with a "S"
Defense with an "s" is the proper way to spell the word in American English, which spans the United States of America. If you live in the US, and your target audience is located in the United States, then the proper way to spell it would be "defense" with an "s".
A reporter in the United States, who is writing a news article for an American newspaper about personal security would write the title as "The 10 Best Self-Defense Rings on the Market" to describe weapons that can be used for personal protection.
Definitions and Uses of Defence and Defense
There is absolutely no difference between "defence" and "defense" when it comes to the meaning of the word and its use. According to Merriam-Webster.com, the words defence and defense are nouns and they both have the same definitions as follows:
- "the act or action of defending"
- "the denial, answer, or plea of one against whom a criminal or civil action is brought"
- "capability of resisting attack"
- "ability to keep an opponent from scoring in a game or contest"
- "means or method of defending or protecting oneself, one's team, or another"
There are several other definitions of the word, but these are the most widespread definitions for it.
Examples of "Defence" and "Defense" in Sentences
"The Leeds Castle in Kent, England boasts beautiful architecture that was once the backbone to its impenetrable defence."
"The criminal attorney used 'Insanity' as a clever defense to get his client out of murder charges."
"The Oregon University's Men's Basketball team will send out the top defense in 2018."
Are There Any Differences At All Besides Spelling?
No, there aren't any differences in the word besides spelling. However, there are additional spelling differences as the word is derived into other forms.
Let's look at the plural form of the words.
The plural of "defence" with a "c" is "defences" which also uses a "c".
Likewise, the plural of "defense" with an "s" is "defenses" which also uses an "s". That makes sense.
Now let's look at the derivative of defence and defense that according to Merriam-Webster.com means "serving to defend or protect". The derivative of "defense" with an "s" for this word is "defensive" with an "s" which makes sense. However, the derivative of "defence" with a "c" for this word is also "defensive" with an "s", and not "defencive" with a "c".
The Future of Defence and Defense
When defence or defense is derived into some forms, the use of "s" is the only correct spelling. Other derivatives besides defensive are defensiveness, defensively, and defensible. All of these derivatives of the word, whether they are written in American English or British English use an "s".
"Defence" used to be the politically correct and widely accepted spelling of the word, but "Defense" has made big strides not just in America, but all throughout the world and even in Great Britain, Canada, and Australia.
In summary, both words are correct and are spelled differently based on a dialectical preference. They should be used depending on your geographic location and your target audience. Defence is not going anywhere, especially in British English, but some people make the argument that "defense" should be the universal and proper way to spell it unanimously. Their argument claims that one of the Latin words from which both defence and defense come from, "defensa" has an "s" in it and therefore that should be the proper spelling. They also point to the fact that even in some derivatives of "defence" the letter changes from "c" to "s" like in the above mentioned examples defensive, defensiveness, defensively, and defensible.
Just don't be defensive if someone tries to correct your spelling of it. Simply explain to them that "defence" with a "c" is used primarily in British English and "defense" with an "s" is used primarily in American English, and both spellings of the word are correct.