plain·​tiff | \ ˈplān-təf How to pronounce plaintiff (audio) \

Definition of plaintiff

: a person who brings a legal action — compare defendant

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms & Antonyms for plaintiff


complainant, suer



Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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

Aberdeen Mayor Erik Larson said the majority of the settlement and legal fees granted to the plaintiffs would be covered by the city’s insurance. The (aberdeen) Daily World, The Seattle Times, "Federal judge grants settlement for homeless advocates in lawsuit against Aberdeen," 20 Feb. 2019 The ordinance says such a facility’s host agency must hold a meeting and notify nearby property owners, which the plaintiffs say didn’t happen. Abby Spegman, The Seattle Times, "Business owners seek restraining order to stop Olympia’s city-sanctioned homeless camp," 8 Dec. 2018 The plaintiffs also say families are rarely made aware of the exact offense that led to a YAT referral. P.r. Lockhart, Vox, "How one California county is criminalizing bad grades," 17 July 2018 The plaintiffs said the lawsuit could be revived once a plan is adopted. Craig Lyons, Post-Tribune, "Secretary of state seeks comments on voting precinct consolidation," 3 July 2018 But the plaintiffs said the relatively scant number of accessible signals violates state and federal laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act, and endangers almost 200,000 New Yorkers who are blind, deaf-blind or partially sighted. Aaron Robertson, New York Times, "Blind Pedestrians Sue the City to Improve Crosswalk Safety," 27 June 2018 Also named in the suit are two men who plaintiffs say worked on conspiracy videos that Jones showed. Aaron Cooper, CNN, "Six more Sandy Hook families sue broadcaster Alex Jones," 23 May 2018 The plaintiffs say the law lacks safeguards to protect against abuse. NBC News, "Judge overturns California's doctor-assisted suicide law," 16 May 2018 That is up to 10 times as much as their land would have brought under ordinary circumstances, the plaintiffs said. Rick Romell, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Judge dismisses lawsuit by Foxconn-area homeowners," 4 May 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about plaintiff

Share plaintiff

Listen to Our Podcast about plaintiff

Statistics for plaintiff

Last Updated

16 Mar 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for plaintiff

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for plaintiff



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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on plaintiff

What made you want to look up plaintiff? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


the way words of a language are spelled

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

A Green Quiz

  • shamrock
  • What is the best definition of green-eyed monster?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

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