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Defence vs. Defense

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  Marius Alza  —  Grammar Tips
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Slight spelling differences between words, given by only one letter, can have multiple causes. For "defence" and "defense", some might consider they mean the same, other might think their meanings are completely different, such as "material" and "materiel". At the same time, some consider only one word is correct whereas the other is a misspelling, and others might consider that one is the verb and one is the noun, as in the situation of "advise" and "advice". But it's not the case.

The two words are spelled differently, but they do mean the same and are only used as nouns. So what makes them different? It's actually much simpler than you thought.

Defence vs. Defense

The difference between the two forms of these nouns is not given by their meanings, their parts of speech or origin. It is simply caused by spelling preferences in US and UK English. "Defence" is the spelling UK prefers, whereas dictionaries classify "defense" as the US spelling for the same word.

Apart from this subtle difference, there is nothing else that would make "defence" and "defense" not identical. Both nouns refer to protection or protecting equipment in front of a danger, of an attack etc. As a secondary meaning, "defence" or "defense" can also be defined as a group of lawyers representing a person who is accused of a crime, working to support that person.

When do we use "defence"?

In UK English. Yes, "defence" can always be replaced with its US corresponding noun, "defense", but it is highly recommended that you prefer "defence" in a British conversation.

This recommendation is even more important in academic or official writing, as it will illustrate your knowledge and elegance in the English vocabulary.

When do we use "defense"?

"Defense" is the US spelling for "defence" - you can and should use it in any conversation with an American or Australian person.

A quick trick to remember the preferred spelling for US English is that "defense" is written with an "s", just like the "S" in "US".


"Defence" is the UK spelling for the US "defense". Both are correct and usual nouns in the English vocabulary, both referring to the same concepts. There is no notable difference you should remember about these two, apart from the fact that using them correctly will showcase your elegance in the use of British and American English.

Defence vs. Defense

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  • todd_c
    Then, in the US, there's "DEfense" for team sports and "deFENse" for national security.
    LikeReply1 year ago
  • davidt.30868
    Do NOT use "defense" in conversations with Australians as stated in this article. We follow UK English grammar rules and therefore "defence" would be the correct spelling for Australian conversations. 
    LikeReply 41 year ago


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