Attack is the best form of defence
What's the meaning of the phrase 'Attack is the best form of defence'?
The proverbial phrase 'attack is the best form of defence' expresses the opinion that a pre-emptive strike is the best way to defend yourself.
The proverb was coined with military attack in mind but it is now used more widely, in sports and in everyday life.
In the USA the proverb is usually expressed as 'the best defense is a good offense'.
What's the origin of the phrase 'Attack is the best form of defence'?
'Attack is the best form of defence' was coined in the USA in the 18th century. It was initially intended to be a military tactic rather than an everyday maxim.
The earliest version of it that I know of is in R. W. Gibbes' Documentary History of the American Revolution, in which he attributes this comment to a W. H. Drayton and dates it as 1775:
It is a maxim, that it is better to attack than to receive one.
George Washington also expressed the same view in 1799, as is recorded in his Writings, published in 1940:
Make them believe, that offensive operations, often times, is the surest, if not the only (in some cases) means of defence.
Although this proverb is American it crossed the Atlantic and became established in the UK. It is still used there in the original 'attack is the best form of defence' form.
In the USA the wording has migrated and is now more commonly expressed there as 'the best defense is a good offense'.
[Note the spelling - typically in the UK 'defence'; in the USA 'defense'.
This began being used, in sporting contexts, in the early 20th century. The earliest example that I can find is in the Virginia newspaper The Times Dispatch, February 1911:
He believes firmly in the doctrine of "Hurry-Up" Yost [a.k.a. football coach Fielding Harris Yost] of Michigan, that "the best defense is a good offense."