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


complainant, suer



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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

Defense lawyers requested an order forcing him to appear, but the judge said that as the plaintiff Baupin had the right not to be there. Sylvie Corbet, The Seattle Times, "6 French women on trial for alleging lawmaker harassed them," 4 Feb. 2019 The first federal court trial, with Mr. Hardeman as plaintiff, will kick off on Feb. 25 before the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Donato Paolo Mancini, WSJ, "Bayer Shares Jump After Monsanto Weedkillers Court Ruling," 4 Jan. 2019 In 2013, the 21-year-old first rose to prominence as the plaintiff in Maine's Supreme Court case Doe v. Clenchy, concerning transgender bathroom rights, after Maines' parents sued her school for denying her the right to use the women's restroom. Christopher Rosa, Glamour, "Nicole Maines Is the Superhero Television Needs Right Now," 17 Oct. 2018 Pambakian, who is listed as a plaintiff on the lawsuit, still works at Tinder, according to her LinkedIn. Kurt Wagner, Recode, "Tinder’s co-founders are suing former parent company IAC for at least $2 billion," 14 Aug. 2018 Padilla, who Bexar County records indicate was charged with criminal trespass, was not named as a plaintiff in the lawsuit. Bruce Selcraig, San Antonio Express-News, "Leon Valley hit with lawsuit over ‘auditor’ arrests," 5 July 2018 One of the concertgoers was killed; the lawsuit includes his children as plaintiffs. Michael Kiefer, azcentral, "Arizona couple files lawsuit against Las Vegas hotel where mass shooting took place," 28 June 2018 Tammara Heron, Heron Family Trust, and Silver Fox Management, LLC are also listed as plaintiffs. Ruth Brown, idahostatesman, "Lawsuit accuses Meridian-based property management LLC of embezzling up to $1 million," 27 June 2018 Joe Arenas, the husband of Cindy Arenas, is also listed as a plaintiff in the lawsuit. Mckenna Moore, Fortune, "8 Southwest Airlines Passengers Are Suing After Fatal Flight," 21 June 2018

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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Statistics for plaintiff

Last Updated

11 May 2019

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Time Traveler for plaintiff

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

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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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