Legal Sense of "Defender"

victor steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Sun May 8 18:24:44 UTC 2011

"Public defender" is in OED from 1822, but I suspect (no evidence, at the
moment) the broader use is more recent.

Incidentally, there is no entry in OED for legal use for "line of defense"
for a particularized argument. There is a II.3.d. entry for military use.
"Law" use of "defense" is in III. (See immediately below.)

d.   line of defence n. Mil.  (a) a line or series of fortified points at
> which an enemy is resisted;  (b) Fortification a line drawn from the curtain
> to the salient angle of the bastion, representing the course of a ball fired
> from the curtain to defend the face of the bastion.

"Defense" in III.8. is also limited to argumentation or proceedings.

8. The opposing or denial by the accused party of the truth or validity of
> the complaint made against him; the defendant's (written) pleading in answer
> to the plaintiff's statement of claim; the proceedings taken by an accused
> party or his legal agents, for defending himself.

No mention is made of "the defense" representing the actual party or their
lawyers, a.k.a. the defense counsel.


On Sun, May 8, 2011 at 8:13 AM, Shapiro, Fred <fred.shapiro at> wrote:

> The OED entry for the word "defender" omits a very common specific legal
> meaning, that of "defense counsel in a legal action, especially a criminal
> action."  This is the sense in the phrase "public defender," and in the
> titles of two television shows called "The Defenders."
> Fred Shapiro

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list