plain·​tiff | \ ˈplān-təf How to pronounce plaintiff (audio) \

Definition of plaintiff

: a person who brings a legal action — compare defendant

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Synonyms & Antonyms for plaintiff



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We won't complain about the origins of plaintiff, although complain and plaintiff are distantly related; both can be traced back to plangere, a Latin word meaning "to strike, beat one's breast, or lament." Plaintiff comes most immediately from Middle English plaintif, itself an Anglo-French borrowing tracing back to plaint, meaning "lamentation." (The English word plaintive is also related.) Logically enough, plaintiff applies to the one who does the complaining in a legal case.

Examples of plaintiff in a Sentence

the judge ruled that the plaintiff's lawsuit was groundless, and he dismissed it
Recent Examples on the Web Attorneys for the plaintiff, educator Thomasena Adams of Orangeburg, argue the structure of the program violates South Carolina’s constitutional ban on state funds directly funding private education. Vivian Jones, Washington Examiner, "South Carolina Supreme Court set to hear arguments on constitutionality of SAFE grants program," 17 Sep. 2020 TikTok and ByteDance, which is also named as a plaintiff, are effectively throwing the kitchen sink at the executive order. Jimmy Quinn, National Review, "TikTok’s Disingenuous Lawsuit," 28 Aug. 2020 Randle is the main plaintiff in a lawsuit filed against the Tulsa County sheriff, the Oklahoma National Guard, and the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday. Madison Dibble, Washington Examiner, "105-year-old woman who survived Black Wall Street massacre sues for reparations," 2 Sep. 2020 Goldfarb, interestingly, is also a co-plaintiff with the Ohio Democratic Party in a lawsuit filed last month against LaRose to force him to allow multiple drop boxes for general-election absentee ballots this fall. Jeremy Pelzer, cleveland, "Attorneys for Kanye West, Sec. of State Frank LaRose trade arguments in Ohio Supreme Court case," 2 Sep. 2020 Kinsey Akers, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, submitted a prepared statement that was read to the commission by one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers on Monday. Dara Kam,, "Stoneman Douglas safety committee settles open-meeting lawsuit," 31 Aug. 2020 Martinez is a plaintiff in the case filed by the ACLU of Oregon. oregonlive, "Protest medics in Portland not spared from force, targeting by police," 8 Aug. 2020 At the time of the surgery, Durrani already had resigned from the hospital due to questionable practices, according to the plaintiff's mother. Kevin Grasha, The Enquirer, "100 former patients of fugitive doctor await Ohio Supreme Court ruling," 29 July 2020 The lawsuit, filed late Monday in San Diego Superior Court, names a city resident and taxpayer as the plaintiff. Jeff Mcdonald, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Private lawyers sue to get City of San Diego out of Ash Street building deal," 17 Aug. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'plaintiff.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of plaintiff

14th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for plaintiff

Middle English plaintif, from Anglo-French, from pleintif, adjective

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Time Traveler for plaintiff

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The first known use of plaintiff was in the 14th century

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Last Updated

23 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Plaintiff.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for plaintiff


How to pronounce plaintiff (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of plaintiff

law : a person who sues another person or accuses another person of a crime in a court of law


plain·​tiff | \ ˈplān-təf How to pronounce plaintiff (audio) \

Legal Definition of plaintiff

: the party who institutes a legal action or claim (as a counterclaim) — see also complainant, complaint, libellant — compare defendant, prosecution

History and Etymology for plaintiff

Middle French plaintif, from plaintif, adj., grieving, from plaint lamentation, from Latin planctus, from plangere to strike, beat one's breast, lament

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