Define: Defendant

UK Accounting Glossary

Definition: Defendant

Quick Summary of Defendant

An individual, company, or institution sued or accused in a court of law. The term defendant is the name for the person who is being sued in a civil case or charged with a crime in criminal prosecution. In arbitration the term defendant and respondent are synonymous. The defendant does not have to prove their case; this must be done by the plaintiff.

An individual becomes a defendant in a tort case after a plaintiff files a complaint with the court and notifies the defendant. Cases may be decided against a defendant if they refuse to answer the complaint, in which case the court will make a default judgment against them, or they take the case to court and lose.

Civil cases may allow for both parties in the complaint to receive compensation for their losses under some systems of compensation allocation. For instance, some states allow compensation to be awarded using a comparative negligence system which determines both parties level of negligence and divides the compensation accordingly.

What is the dictionary definition of Defendant?

Dictionary Definition

a person or institution against whom an action is brought in a court of law; the person being sued or accused.

  1. legal In civil proceedings, the party responding to the complaint; one who is sued and called upon to make satisfaction for a wrong complained of by another.
  2. legal In criminal proceedings, the accused.


Full Definition of Defendant

In law, a defendant is the party that must respond to legal action. The legal action against a defendant can be either a civil or a criminal lawsuit. In a civil suit, a plaintiff makes a complaint against the defendant. In a criminal suit, a prosecutor charges a violation of a criminal statute. A lawsuit can name a single defendant or many. A defendant in a court proceeding that represents himself is said to be acting pro se. The legal counsel of a defendant is called the defence in the court proceedings. If a petition rather than a lawsuit is filed in court, the entity named is called a respondent rather than a defendant. Because of the time and costs involved in the US legal system, a potential defendant will often settle out of court before legal action is initiated.


Cite Term

To help you cite our definitions in your bibliography, here is the proper citation layout for the three major formatting styles, with all of the relevant information filled in.

Page URL
Modern Language Association (MLA):
Defendant. Payroll & Accounting Heaven Ltd. April 02, 2020
Chicago Manual of Style (CMS):
Defendant. Payroll & Accounting Heaven Ltd. (accessed: April 02, 2020).
American Psychological Association (APA):
Defendant. Retrieved April 02, 2020, from website:

Definition Sources

Definitions for Defendant are sourced/syndicated and enhanced from:

  • A Dictionary of Economics (Oxford Quick Reference)
  • Oxford Dictionary Of Accounting
  • Oxford Dictionary Of Business & Management

This glossary post was last updated: 7th February 2020.