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 The group sued on behalf of plaintiff Antonio Vitolo, owner of Jake’s Bar and Grill in Harriman, Tennessee. Jonathan Mattise, ajc, "Suit challenges restaurant aid priority to women, minorities," 13 May 2021 The plaintiff/employee, Robert Collier, filed a petition with the Supreme Court earlier this year asking it to review a decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Eric Bachman, Forbes, "Can Saying The ‘N-Word’ Create A Hostile Work Environment?," 4 May 2021 One plaintiff was struck by a projectile at the same time authorities ordered protesters to vacate the area, according to video referenced to the injunction. Kaelan Deese, Washington Examiner, "Judge restricts Columbus police's use of force on nonviolent protesters," 2 May 2021 Lead plaintiff Tammy Fournier Alsaada, a community activist, was pepper-sprayed without provocation after receiving permission to walk through a line of police to discuss the arrests of some protesters, the lawsuit said. Andrew Welsh-huggins,, "Judge orders Columbus police to alter tactics for responding to demonstrations against racial injustice and police brutality," 30 Apr. 2021 Van, the plaintiff-candidate, is sanguine about his odds., "Lowell is an immigrant city on the precipice of change," 15 Apr. 2021 With her business on the brink of collapse, plaintiff Nica Knite, who runs the Pine Valley House Resort and also chairs the Re-Open San Diego Small Business Coalition, is hoping the case will award her with a degree of operational certainty. Jennifer Van Grove, San Diego Union-Tribune, "San Diego businesses sue to end California’s state of emergency, COVID-19 restrictions," 31 Mar. 2021 The case is the latest in a series in which the court has calibrated the standards and burdens of proof between plaintiff shareholders and defendant corporations in big-dollar class actions. Jess Bravin, WSJ, "Supreme Court Weighs Merit of Goldman Sachs Ethics Statements," 29 Mar. 2021 Co-plaintiff Jaime Mitchell said the lack of an X option is an extra indignity for already vulnerable people in need of Medicaid or food stamps. Michael Hill, Star Tribune, "NY social service agency sued for not allowing X gender mark," 29 Mar. 2021

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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Statistics for plaintiff

Last Updated

15 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Plaintiff.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 May. 2021.

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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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