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

Definition of plaintiff

: a person who brings a legal action — compare defendant

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms & Antonyms for plaintiff


complainant, suer



Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Did You Know?

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

According to the plaintiffs, the victim was left alone in his room without medical care or counseling. Evan Frank, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "A Florida family says lax supervision led to assault at St. John's Northwestern Military Academy. Now they're suing.," 16 July 2019 The plaintiffs, represented by Craig Gurian of the nonprofit Anti-Discrimination Center, argue that the policy does not meet federal fair housing requirements. New York Times, "What the City Didn’t Want the Public to Know: Its Policy Deepens Segregation," 16 July 2019 Relatives and prosecutors have brought at least nine cases against hoaxers, according to an attorney for a group of plaintiffs, including three in Connecticut consolidated by the court. Susan Svrluga,, "First, they lost their children. Then the conspiracy theories started. Now, the parents of Newtown are fighting back.," 9 July 2019 According to the plaintiffs, that conflict of interest and the broader irregularities should render the agreement invalid. Russell Brandom, The Verge, "Android co-founder Andy Rubin accused of cheating wife out of fortune while running a sex ring," 2 July 2019 Two schools in the Glendale Elementary School district, one of the lawsuit's plaintiffs, were temporarily shuttered in 2016 because the district found structural deficiencies in the school buildings. Lily Altavena, azcentral, "Arizona has inspected only 1 school for building deficiencies in 3 years," 24 June 2019 The plaintiffs, who also include Steve Earle and the band Hole, are seeking compensatory damages in excess of $100 million., "Tom Petty estate, Soundgarden among those suing record label over fire," 22 June 2019 Word of the action came in a one-sentence email from the Justice Department to lawyers for plaintiffs in a New York lawsuit that sought to block the question’s inclusion in the head count. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Trump administration drops effort to add citizenship question to 2020 Census," 2 July 2019 Word of the administration’s decision to stop fighting came in a one-sentence email from the Justice Department to lawyers for plaintiffs in a New York lawsuit that sought to block the question’s inclusion in the head count. Michael Wines, New York Times, "2020 Census Won’t Have Citizenship Question as Trump Administration Drops Effort," 2 July 2019

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about plaintiff

Listen to Our Podcast about plaintiff

Statistics for plaintiff

Last Updated

20 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for plaintiff

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for plaintiff



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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on plaintiff

What made you want to look up plaintiff? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


an act or instance of editing or removing

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

What's that Smell?! Quiz

  • wide eyed dog smelling rose
  • Someone who is hircine smells like a:
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!