plain·​tiff ˈplān-təf How to pronounce plaintiff (audio)
: a person who brings a legal action compare defendant

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 Accordingly, in some cases, plaintiffs may not be able to deduct the fees, even though 40 percent or more of their recoveries are paid to their lawyers. Robert W. Wood, Forbes, 13 Feb. 2024 Lawyers for OpenAI and the author plaintiffs did not immediately return Rolling Stone’s requests for comment. Jon Blistein, Rolling Stone, 13 Feb. 2024 Stories like theirs have become increasingly common, as Jen and several other plaintiffs laid out in a lawsuit filed against the state of Idaho in September. Meg Tirrell, CNN, 10 Feb. 2024 The plaintiffs claimed that Apple used an unusual financial model to artificially deflate Cook’s pay estimate, and also buried the compensation tables in a drab, gray section of the proxy statement, where shareholders would be less likely to notice it before casting their Say-on-Pay votes. Dylan Sloan, Fortune, 8 Feb. 2024 Former Colorado legislator Norma Anderson, the first woman to serve as majority leader in the Colorado House and the Colorado Senate, is a plaintiff in the Colorado Supreme Court case which bars former President Donald Trump from being on the state's presidential primary ballot. Melissa Quinn, CBS News, 7 Feb. 2024 Both plaintiffs are residents of Benton and used to sing in the church’s youth choir. Frank E. Lockwood,, 2 Feb. 2024 Although the teen isn’t fully named in the lawsuit, her mother confirmed that her daughter Olivia O’Dea is the lead plaintiff in the case. Holly Yan, CNN, 30 Jan. 2024 The plaintiffs include Grove Rights and Community Equity (GRACE), two local branches of the NAACP and multiple individual residents. Joey Flechas, Miami Herald, 30 Jan. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'plaintiff.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined above

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


Dictionary Entries Near plaintiff

Cite this Entry

“Plaintiff.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


plain·​tiff ˈplānt-əf How to pronounce plaintiff (audio)
: the complaining party in a lawsuit

Legal Definition


plain·​tiff ˈplān-təf How to pronounce plaintiff (audio)
: the party who institutes a legal action or claim (as a counterclaim) see also complainant, complaint, libellant compare defendant, prosecution

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

More from Merriam-Webster on plaintiff

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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