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 lead plaintiff in the case was a mother named Jenny Flores. Joel Rubin,, "Trump administration heads to court, seeking to hold immigrant families in detention," 21 June 2018 The plaintiff was 16 when admitted to the facility and is 25 now. Dave Quinn,, "Little Women: LA’s Briana Renee Says Her Kids Are Her 'First Priority' as Ex Is Accused of Assault," 20 June 2018 The plaintiff is one of many women to come forward with allegations against Arnault. Madeleine Aggeler, The Cut, "Nobel Scandal: Photographer Faces Two Charges of Rape," 12 June 2018 The plaintiffs are all students who are referred to by their initials in the suit, which doesn’t identify Cruz by name. Rafael Olmeda,, "Cops should have stopped Parkland shooter, students say in lawsuit," 11 July 2018 The plaintiffs in Tennessee are James Thomas and David Hixson. New York Times, "Being Poor Can Mean Losing a Driver’s License. Not Anymore in Tennessee.," 4 July 2018 The other plaintiffs were from Hernando County in Florida and Chesterfield, Va. Gabrielle Russon,, "130,000-plus SeaWorld customers could get refunds in $11.5 million settlement of lawsuit," 3 July 2018 The lead plaintiff in the lawsuit is Ansly Damus, described by the ACLU as a Haitian ethics teacher in his early 40s who has been detained for more than a year in Ohio since fleeing to the U.S. to escape gang violence and political persecution. Jacob Gershman, WSJ, "Federal Judge Rules Against Mass Detention of Asylum Seekers," 2 July 2018 His wife Stephanie, another plaintiff, was with him. Michael Kiefer, azcentral, "Arizona couple files lawsuit against Las Vegas hotel where mass shooting took place," 28 June 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

9 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

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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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).


noxious or harmful

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