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Respondent vs. Defendant — What's the Difference?

Edited by Tayyaba Rehman — By Fiza Rafique — Updated on September 26, 2023
Respondent is a person who replies to something, especially in legal matters like an appeal, while a Defendant is an individual or entity accused in a court of law.
Respondent vs. Defendant — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Respondent and Defendant


Key Differences

Respondent and Defendant are both terms used in the legal field to refer to parties involved in cases, but they have distinct contexts and meanings. A Respondent is generally someone who responds or answers to a petition or motion. In contrast, a Defendant is specifically an individual, group, or entity that is being accused or charged in a lawsuit.
In many legal scenarios, the term Respondent is utilized in appellate courts. When an appeal is made, the person appealing is the appellant, and the one answering or responding to the appeal is the Respondent. The Defendant, on the other hand, is primarily seen in criminal and civil lawsuits where someone is facing accusations or charges. In these instances, the party bringing the charges is the plaintiff or prosecutor, and the accused is the Defendant.
It's essential to recognize that while every Defendant responds to the accusations or charges, not every Respondent is a Defendant. The term Respondent is broader and can be used in various legal scenarios, from administrative proceedings to certain family court matters. In contrast, the term Defendant is much more specific, pointing directly to someone accused of wrongdoing.

Comparison Chart

Legal Context

Used in appellate courts & various legal scenarios.
Primarily used in criminal and civil lawsuits.


Responds to petitions, motions, or appeals.
Accused or charged in a lawsuit.

Relation to Other Parties

Often paired with "appellant" in appellate cases.
Paired with "plaintiff" or "prosecutor" in civil or criminal cases, respectively.

General Definition

Someone who replies or responds.
Someone accused or sued in court.

Non-legal Usage

Can refer to someone answering a survey or questionnaire.
Retains its legal connotation.

Compare with Definitions


Respondent can refer to someone responding in legal proceedings other than trials.
In the family court, the Respondent disagreed with the petitioner's claims.


Defendant is an individual or entity accused in a court of law.
The Defendant pleaded not guilty to the charges.


Respondent can be a party responding to a legal action.
The Respondent provided evidence to counter the accusations.


Defendant is an individual who must defend against legal charges.
The jury was focused on the testimony of the Defendant.


Respondent refers to someone who answers or replies to a petition or motion.
The Respondent filed a counter-argument in the appellate court.


Defendant refers to someone sued or prosecuted for an alleged wrongdoing.
The evidence against the Defendant was circumstantial.


Respondent, in non-legal contexts, is someone answering a survey or questionnaire.
The survey had over a thousand Respondents.


Defendant is the party facing accusations in a lawsuit.
The Defendant's lawyer presented a robust defense.


Respondent is an individual who replies to an appeal in court.
The judge heard the arguments of both the appellant and the Respondent.


Defendant is the opposing party to the plaintiff in civil cases or the prosecutor in criminal cases.
The case was dismissed due to a lack of evidence against the Defendant.


A respondent is a person who is called upon to issue a response to a communication made by another. The term is used in legal contexts, in survey methodology, and in psychological conditioning.


In court proceedings, a defendant is a person who is the party either accused of committing a crime in criminal prosecution or against whom some type of civil relief is being sought in a civil case. Terminology varies from one jurisdiction to another.


A party against whom a petition is filed, especially one in an appeal or a divorce case.


The party against which an action is brought.


A person who replies to something, especially one supplying information for a questionnaire or responding to an advertisement
Most respondents to our questionnaire considered their practices to be in accordance with current medical guidelines


Serving, or suitable, for defense; defensive, defending.


In the position of a party defending against a petition
The respondent defendant


(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.


Replying to something
The respondent firms in the survey


(legal) In criminal proceedings, the accused.


Involving or denoting a response, especially a conditioned reflex, to a specific stimulus.


Serving, or suitable, for defense; defensive.
With men of courage and with means defendant.


One who responds.


Making defense.


(Law) The defending party in certain legal proceedings, as in a case brought by petition.


One who defends; a defender.
The rampiers and ditches which the defendants had cast up.


Giving or given as an answer; responsive.


A person required to make answer in an action or suit; - opposed to plaintiff.


(Law) Of or being a respondent in a proceeding.


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


One who responds; one who replies.


(law) A defendant, especially in a case instituted by a petition or in appellate and divorce proceedings.


A person replying to a questionnaire.


Disposed or expected to respond; answering; according; corresponding.


Disposed or expected to respond; answering; according; corresponding.
Wealth respondent to payment and contributions.


One who responds. It corresponds in general to defendant.


The codefendant (especially in a divorce proceeding) who is accused of adultery with the corespondent


Someone who responds


An answering glance
An answering smile

Common Curiosities

Outside the legal realm, what can a Respondent refer to?

A Respondent can refer to someone answering a survey or questionnaire.

Is every Defendant a Respondent?

While every Defendant responds to charges, not every Respondent is a Defendant.

In which court is the term Respondent commonly used?

The term Respondent is frequently used in appellate courts.

Who brings charges against a Defendant?

In civil cases, a plaintiff brings charges, while in criminal cases, a prosecutor does.

Is Respondent specific to criminal or civil cases?

No, the term Respondent can be used in various legal scenarios, including administrative and family court matters.

What is the primary distinction between Respondent and Defendant?

Respondent replies to legal matters like appeals; a Defendant is accused in court.

Is Defendant used outside of legal contexts?

The term Defendant predominantly retains its legal connotation.

What role does a Defendant play in a lawsuit?

A Defendant defends against accusations or charges brought in a lawsuit.

Who typically represents a Defendant in court?

A defense attorney or lawyer represents the Defendant.

Does a Respondent always oppose an appellant?

In appellate cases, yes; the Respondent opposes the appellant.

In which court cases is the term Defendant predominantly found?

The term Defendant is primarily found in criminal and civil lawsuits.

In appellate cases, who is the opposing party to the Respondent?

The opposing party is often the "appellant."

What is the relationship between a Defendant and a plaintiff?

In civil cases, the plaintiff accuses or sues the Defendant.

If someone answers a survey, can they be called a Respondent?

Yes, in non-legal contexts, someone answering a survey is often referred to as a Respondent.

Can the term Respondent be used interchangeably with Defendant?

No, while both can be involved in legal cases, their roles and contexts differ.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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