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

Definition of possess

transitive verb

1a : to have and hold as property : own
b : to have as an attribute, knowledge, or skill
2a : 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
3a obsolete : to instate as owner
b : to make the owner or holder used in passive construction to indicate simple possession possessed of richespossessed of knowledge and experience

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Other Words from possess

possessor \ pə-​ˈze-​sər How to pronounce possess (audio) also  -​ˈse-​ \ noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for possess



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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?
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Recent Examples on the Web There are several players who possess high basketball IQ and can offer secondary playmaking, defensive versatility, decent three-point shooting, and are ready to play in the NBA. Patrick Murray, Forbes, "Golden State Warriors Face Rare Chance To Improve Playoff Positioning And NBA Draft Prospects," 5 May 2021 People who possess a true inner beauty, their eyes are a little brighter, their skin a little more dewy. Southern Living Editors, Southern Living, "25 Natural Beauty Quotes To Celebrate Confidence," 5 May 2021 The agency cannot take against individuals who would possess or use menthol tobacco products. Jen Christensen, CNN, "FDA moves to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars," 29 Apr. 2021 Under the legislation, people 21 and older who can legally possess a handgun could carry it in public without first getting a license from the state. Allie Morris, Dallas News, "Bill to allow Texans to carry handguns without a license steaming toward Senate floor vote," 29 Apr. 2021 The lawsuit says Westforth has been repeatedly cited by federal officials for allowing straw purchases, or purchases of guns intended for sale to third parties who couldn’t legally possess them. Joe Barrett, WSJ, "Chicago Sues Indiana Gun Shop Over Illegal Guns," 26 Apr. 2021 In turn, the hitters who don’t possess elite bat-to-ball skills are left with three outcomes that critics believe have eroded the sport: strikeout, homer, or walk. BostonGlobe.com, "Red Sox are winning without relying on the long ball," 26 Apr. 2021 To further understand the role of cross-reactive T cells, Sette, at La Jolla, is studying whether patients who possess them also mount a stronger immune response after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. Sarah Zhang, The Atlantic, "Why the Coronavirus Can Infect Us Without Making Us Sick," 7 Apr. 2021 Many mock drafts have the Bengals, who possess the No. 5 pick in the draft, selecting Sewell. oregonlive, "NFL draft 2021 news and rumors: Former Oregon star Penei Sewell’s arm length is the ‘only serious question’ after an impressive performance at pro day," 5 Apr. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'possess.' 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 possess

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

History and Etymology for possess

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

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Time Traveler for possess

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for possess

Last Updated

16 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Possess.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/possess. Accessed 18 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for possess



English Language Learners Definition of possess

formal : to have or own (something)
: to have or show (a particular quality, ability, skill, etc.)
of spirits : to enter into and control (someone)


pos·​sess | \ pə-ˈzes How to pronounce possess (audio) \
possessed; possessing

Kids Definition of possess

1 : to have and hold as property : own I possess little money.
2 : to have as a characteristic or quality The black wolf also possessed wisdom, she had observed.— Jean Craighead George, Julie of the Wolves
3 : to enter into and control possessed by a demon What possessed you to say that?

Other Words from possess

possessor \ -​ər \ noun


transitive verb
pos·​sess | \ pə-ˈzes How to pronounce possess (audio) \

Legal Definition of possess

: to have possession of

Comments on possess

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