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


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

That school is authorized by Dehesa but does not operate in Dehesa’s area, violating state law, plaintiff attorneys said in the case. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Dehesa School District is auditing all its charter schools," 1 Sep. 2019 The American Medical Association was also a plaintiff in the lawsuit. Nicquel Terry Ellis, USA TODAY, "Planned Parenthood rejects Title X funding over abortion rule: Here's what that means," 20 Aug. 2019 Senator James Buckley, the brother of National Review founder William F. Buckley Jr., was the plaintiff in Buckley v. Valeo (1976), in which the Supreme Court struck some of the more egregious elements of the speech-stifling 1974 law. Jeremy Carl, National Review, "We Need Donor-Privacy Legislation Now," 12 Aug. 2019 No strong arguments were made to shoot the proposal down, plaintiff’s attorney Christopher Seeger said. Eric Heisig,, "Power struggle between attorneys general, local governments on display in opioid litigation," 6 Aug. 2019 Chike Ojukwu, who created the beat, and co-writer Emanuel Lambert were also plaintiffs in the case. Chris Eggertsen, Billboard, "Katy Perry Loses 'Dark Horse' Copyright Trial," 29 July 2019 In a statement, a group of plaintiff attorneys applauded Polster's decision. CBS News, "Opioid shipments ballooned as an addiction crisis grew, data shows," 17 July 2019 The group was the plaintiff in a gerrymandering lawsuit challenging legislative maps for North Carolina that had been drawn by her father. Charles Bethea, The New Yorker, "A Father, a Daughter, and the Attempt to Change the Census," 13 July 2019 Skylar and her 1-year-old brother Jalen are now set to be plaintiffs in a civil rights lawsuit seeking $20 million from the City of Atlanta. Christian Boone, ajc, "City faces potential $20 mil lawsuit from family of man killed by federal task force," 25 June 2019

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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Last Updated

14 Sep 2019

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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 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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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).


to make a temporary encampment

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