plain·tiff | \ ˈplān-təf \

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

According to the LaFoy lawsuit, Miller first groped the plaintiff at the sheriff’s headquarters in Kearny Mesa, hugging her against her will and rubbing his hand across her backside. Jeff Mcdonald,, "San Diego County again sued over sexual-misconduct allegation against top sheriff's official," 9 July 2018 The plaintiffs in this case—one of several related lawsuits playing out across the country—argued that asbestos in some of the brand’s baby and body powders led them to develop ovarian cancer. Elizabeth Inglese, Vogue, "Why Johnson & Johnson’s $4.7 Billion Baby Powder Lawsuit Is Important for Women Everywhere," 13 July 2018 For Ashley Sprague, a 27-year-old mother of five from Lebanon, Tennessee who is a plaintiff in that case, the thought of paying $946 in traffic debt, plus $388 to get her license reinstated, was overwhelming. Washington Post, "Drivers challenge license suspensions for unpaid court debt," 4 July 2018 Conservative speaker Ben Shapiro is a plaintiff in the lawsuit. CBS News, "Conservative groups sue university for moving Ben Shapiro speech," 3 July 2018 Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers in May agreed with Morgan, who largely bankrolled the constitutional amendment, and plaintiffs in the case. Dara Kam,, "Smoking medical marijuana not allowed while legal fight continues," 3 July 2018 IDEAS Obergefell was the lead plaintiff in the U.S. Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges. Jim Obergefell, Time, "I Brought the Case that Made Same-Sex Marriage Legal. Anthony Kennedy's Retirement Threatens All We Have Won," 28 June 2018 Her son was a plaintiff in a suit filed against Cabillo and other San Francisco officers by the American Civil Liberties Union a year earlier. Sarah Ravani,, "North Beach shooting renews scrutiny of SF officer’s use of force," 20 June 2018 According to the New York Times, Armstrong agreed to pay $5 million, of which $1.1 million will go to former teammate Floyd Landis, who brought the case to the government in 2010 and was the original plaintiff. The Editors, Outside Online, "Big Win for Lance Armstrong in Settlement," 19 Apr. 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

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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Statistics for plaintiff

Last Updated

14 Sep 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

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