plain·​tiff | \ˈplān-təf \

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

The plaintiff, Dewayne Johnson, was a California groundskeeper who regularly used Roundup. Yvette D'entremont, SELF, "Should You Worry About Herbicides In Your Food?," 10 Oct. 2018 Bunin was one of several county officials, including District Attorney Kim Ogg and Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, who filed affidavits in the lawsuit in support of the plaintiffs. Zach Despart, Houston Chronicle, "Harris County public defender keeps job amid questions from Commissioners Court," 12 June 2018 Hundreds of plaintiffs file lawsuit over Missouri River flooding Pause 214 Lincoln Prep students march to City Hall in protest of gun violence 33 Raw video: Scene of reported shooting in the 3500 block of Prospect Ave. Kaitlyn Schwers, Mará Rose Williams And Joe Robertson, kansascity, "KC area students participating in national school walkout | The Kansas City Star," 14 Mar. 2018 The residents in Boulder, Colo., would love to be plaintiffs for this cause. WSJ, "Will California Fires Promote Better Policy?," 16 Nov. 2018 Otherwise, a plaintiff risks dismissal on procedural grounds that are avoidable. Alex Ward, Vox, "Trump’s Justice Department is fighting US terrorist attack victims in the Supreme Court," 8 Nov. 2018 According to David Cross, an attorney representing a group of Georgia plaintiffs currently suing Kemp over inadequate voting security, the flare-up began when a Georgia voter named Richard Wright contacted the group Coalition for Good Governance. Cyrus Farivar, Ars Technica, "With no evidence, Georgia’s top voting official accuses Dems of “cyberattack”," 5 Nov. 2018 Blum is now relying on undisclosed Asian American plaintiffs. Yuvraj Joshi, Teen Vogue, "Why the Affirmative Action Case Against Harvard Isn’t Actually About Fair Treatment for Minority Students," 16 Oct. 2018 In three other cases last year, Johnson & Johnson, which also owns Aveeno, Clean & Clear, and Neutrogena, was asked to pay plaintiffs $72 million, $70.1 million, and $55 million, for a combined total of $197.1 million. Sarah Kinonen, Allure, "Johnson & Johnson Was Ordered to Pay a Record-Setting Verdict [Update]," 16 July 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

7 Dec 2018

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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 \

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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