possess

verb

pos·​sess pə-ˈzes How to pronounce possess (audio)
also
-ˈses How to pronounce possess (audio)
possessed; possessing; possesses

transitive verb

1
a
: to have and hold as property : own
b
: to have as an attribute, knowledge, or skill
2
a
: to seize and take control of : take into one's possession
b
: to enter into and control firmly : dominate
was possessed by demons
c
: to bring or cause to fall under the influence, domination, or control of some emotional or intellectual response or reaction
melancholy possesses her
3
a
obsolete : to instate as owner
b
: to make the owner or holder
used in passive construction to indicate simple possession
possessed of riches
possessed of knowledge and experience
possessor
pə-ˈze-sər How to pronounce possess (audio)
 also  -ˈse-
noun

Examples of possess in a Sentence

What would possess seemingly sane people to treat concrete walls like trampolines? Alice Park, Time, 16 Apr. 2007
People who experience specific colors when looking at particular letters, such as seeing sky blue when shown an R, possess an unusual abundance of connections in brain areas involved in word and color perception, a new brain-imaging investigation finds. Bruce Bower, Science News, 26 May 2007
What does matter is that we come to recognize that playfulness, as a philosophical stance, can be very serious, indeed; and, moreover, that it possesses an unfailing capacity to arouse ridicule and hostility in those among us who crave certainty, reverence, and restraint. Tom Robbins, Harper's, September 2004
nations that possess nuclear weapons The defendant was charged with possessing cocaine. The ruby was once possessed by an ancient queen. He dreams of someday possessing great wealth. He possesses a keen wit. The drug possesses the potential to suppress tumors. Do dolphins possess the ability to use language? See More
Recent Examples on the Web Nor does Japan possess many of the assembly operations that firms such as Apple maintain in China. Milton Ezrati, Forbes, 27 Feb. 2024 While Congress does not have a final say on the transaction, lawmakers possess the power to pressure or probe the companies, including by demanding their testimony on Capitol Hill. Tony Romm, Washington Post, 26 Feb. 2024 Palomar directors, lawyers confirmed, would no longer possess the ability to fire the CEO. Paul Sisson, San Diego Union-Tribune, 26 Feb. 2024 Candidates who are passionate about technology, possess a strong understanding of IT controls, and are keen on cybersecurity practices will find this discipline aligns with their career goals. Bryce Welker, Miami Herald, 24 Feb. 2024 In the ever-evolving world of interior design, where trends constantly come and go, few elements possess the transformative, timeless power of flowers. Christine Chitnis, Vogue, 23 Feb. 2024 LaPierre did not naturally possess the qualities Americans usually associate with leadership: charisma, fortitude, decisiveness. Mike Spies, The New Yorker, 23 Feb. 2024 As the exhibit shows, every artifact throughout the film possesses a rich backstory or pays tribute to a piece of the Osage culture – underscoring the thoughtfulness and intentionality with which Scorsese brought Killers of the Flower Moon to life. Eda Yu, The Hollywood Reporter, 23 Feb. 2024 Gavin possesses a deep moral character, faith, and thoughtfulness coupled with a great work ethic and enthusiasm. Shari Rudavsky, The Indianapolis Star, 23 Feb. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'possess.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Middle English, from Middle French possesser to have possession of, take possession of, from Latin possessus, past participle of possidēre, from potis able, having the power + sedēre to sit — more at potent, sit

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of possess was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near possess

Cite this Entry

“Possess.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/possess. Accessed 4 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition

possess

verb
pos·​sess pə-ˈzes How to pronounce possess (audio)
1
a
: to have and hold as property : own
b
: to have as a characteristic, knowledge, or skill
possesses a keen wit
2
: to enter into and control firmly : dominate
possessed by a demon
whatever possessed you to do that
possessor
-ˈzes-ər
noun

Legal Definition

possess

transitive verb
pos·​sess pə-ˈzes How to pronounce possess (audio)
: to have possession of

More from Merriam-Webster on possess

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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