The term is commonly used in politics, and especially in the context of war to denote treason: a soldier can be a defeatist if they refuse to fight because they think that the fight will be lost for sure or that it is not worth fighting for some other reason. Again in connection with war, the term is used to refer to the view that defeat would be better than victory. The term can also be used in other fields, like politics, sport, psychology and philosophy.
During World War II, Adolf Hitler unexpectedly dismissed many generals for defeatism. During the last year of war German people's court executed many people accused of defeatist talks or acts and their names were announced weekly in a pink colored poster pasted on billboards around the country.