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verb pos·sess \pə-ˈzes also -ˈses\

Simple Definition of possess

  • : to have or own (something)

  • : to have or show (a particular quality, ability, skill, etc.)

  • of spirits : to enter into and control (someone)

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of possess

  1. transitive verb
  2. 1 a :  to have and hold as property :  own b :  to have as an attribute, knowledge, or skill

  3. 2 a :  to seize and take control of :  take into one's possession b :  to enter into and control firmly :  dominate <was possessed by demons> c :  to bring or cause to fall under the influence, domination, or control of some emotional or intellectual response or reaction <melancholy possesses her>

  4. 3 a obsolete :  to instate as owner b :  to make the owner or holder —used in passive construction to indicate simple possession <possessed of riches> <possessed of knowledge and experience>



Examples of possess in a sentence

  1. What would possess seemingly sane people to treat concrete walls like trampolines? —Alice Park, Time, 16 Apr. 2007

  2. People who experience specific colors when looking at particular letters, such as seeing sky blue when shown an R, possess an unusual abundance of connections in brain areas involved in word and color perception, a new brain-imaging investigation finds. —Bruce Bower, Science News, 26 May 2007

  3. What does matter is that we come to recognize that playfulness, as a philosophical stance, can be very serious, indeed; and, moreover, that it possesses an unfailing capacity to arouse ridicule and hostility in those among us who crave certainty, reverence, and restraint. —Tom Robbins, Harper's, September 2004

  4. nations that possess nuclear weapons

  5. The defendant was charged with possessing cocaine.

  6. The ruby was once possessed by an ancient queen.

  7. He dreams of someday possessing great wealth.

  8. He possesses a keen wit.

  9. The drug possesses the potential to suppress tumors.

  10. Do dolphins possess the ability to use language?

Origin and Etymology of possess

Middle English, from Middle French possesser to have possession of, take possession of, from Latin possessus, past participle of possidēre, from potis able, having the power + sedēre to sit — more at potent, sit

First Known Use: 14th century

POSSESS Defined for Kids


verb pos·sess \pə-ˈzes\

Definition of possess for Students



  1. 1 :  to have and hold as property :  own <I possess little money.>

  2. 2 :  to have as a characteristic or quality <The black wolf also possessed wisdom, she had observed. — Jean Craighead George, Julie of the Wolves>

  3. 3 :  to enter into and control <possessed by a demon> <What possessed you to say that?>


\-ər\ noun

Law Dictionary


transitive verb pos·sess \pə-ˈzes\

Legal Definition of possess

  1. :  to have possession of

Seen and Heard

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to criticize in a loud and angry way

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