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 possessionpossessed 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 The sisters, both in their 20s, are wise beyond their years and possess the vocal range to turn skeptics into believers. The Christian Science Monitor, "From H.E.R. to Taylor Swift, women deliver the best songs of 2020," 18 Dec. 2020 While the new study provides some of the strongest evidence to date that ravens, like primates, possess a flexible, strong general intelligence, Pika points out that there are some important caveats. Rachel Nuwer, Scientific American, "Young Ravens Rival Adult Chimps in a Big Test of General Intelligence," 10 Dec. 2020 The MORE Act would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and eliminate criminal penalties for individuals who manufacture, distribute or possess marijuana. Aj Willingham, CNN, "5 things to know for December 7: Coronavirus, White House transition, marijuana, Venezuela, India," 7 Dec. 2020 The state will argue that safety education, hunting or supervised target practice are the only times a person under 18 can legally possess a rifle or shotgun. Bruce Vielmetti, USA TODAY, "Kyle Rittenhouse's lawyer to seek dismissal of some Kenosha shooting charges in Thursday hearing," 4 Dec. 2020 Specifically, the bill limits who is able to transport, sell, buy, breed or possess big cats, including lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, cougars or hybrids of those animals. Li Cohen, CBS News, "House passes bill featured in "Tiger King" that would ban most big cat ownership," 4 Dec. 2020 With his new contract, Bosa has the sort of security few around this organization possess these days. Jeff Miller, Los Angeles Times, "In drop-the-mic performance, Chargers’ Joey Bosa exudes that he’s a good sport," 3 Dec. 2020 The balance that the Titans possess on offense will be too much of a puzzle for the Browns to solve. Jeremy Cluff, The Arizona Republic, "Cleveland Browns vs. Tennessee Titans picks, predictions: Who wins Week 13 NFL game?," 2 Dec. 2020 While the Wizards possess the high-end talent the Cavs lack, the front office did nothing to address a disastrous defense. Chris Fedor, cleveland, "Where do Cleveland Cavaliers stand in Eastern Conference hierarchy following mundane offseason?," 1 Dec. 2020

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 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

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

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More Definitions for possess


How to pronounce possess (audio) How to pronounce possess (audio)

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

Legal Definition of possess

: to have possession of

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Comments on possess

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