pos·sess | \pə-ˈzes also -ˈses \
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 also -ˈse- \ noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for possess


command, enjoy, have, hold, own, retain


lack, want

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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

Saturday night’s lineup is an example of the flexibility Maddon possesses, as Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant will bat 1-2 against the Padres and starting pitcher Luis Perdomo. Mark Gonzales, chicagotribune.com, "Cubs' Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant batting 1-2 vs. Padres," 14 July 2018 Shooting a moving target, my father taught me, required anticipation, and his muscular pursuit of the clay birds soaring toward the creek possessed a precision and grace that awed me. Liz Arnold, Longreads, "Making Peace with the Site of a Suicide," 11 July 2018 Littlefield had a trusty utility knife, and the door possessed a thin section of partitioning that could be pried up by the workings of a blade. Paul Collins, BostonGlobe.com, "What lies in the lab: The gruesome murder at Harvard that transfixed New England," 11 July 2018 Massachusetts is the only state in the U.S. that generally requires all guns to be locked up when not in use, while California, Connecticut and New York require firearms to be securely stored around people who can’t legally possess them. Daniel Beekman, The Seattle Times, "Gun owners face fines up to $10,000 for not locking up their guns under new Seattle law," 9 July 2018 Ditko was the only Marvel artist given the licence to not draw like Kirby because his signature style -- moody, off-kilter, wirey, and sometimes psychedelic -- possessed an originality that couldn’t be streamlined. Jeet Heer, The New Republic, "Steve Ditko, the co-creator of Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, is dead.," 7 July 2018 This time a year ago, the Orioles and Twins met in Minnesota as postseason contenders, but their four-game series at Target Field this week possesses far less intrigue. Eduardo A. Encina, baltimoresun.com, "Cashner's quality start, Schoop's two homers not enough in Orioles' 5-2 loss to Twins," 6 July 2018 Fernandez was booked on suspicion of being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition and illegally possessing an assault rifle and large-capacity magazines. Fox News, "More than 500 guns seized from Southern California homes," 19 June 2018 The myth of a distinct supply chain—where a person either cultivates or deals or possesses or uses, but never more than one—doesn’t tend to map onto reality. Josie Duffy Rice, The Atlantic, "The Gospel According to Pusha T," 12 July 2018

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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Statistics for possess

Last Updated

13 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for possess

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

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More Definitions for possess



English Language Learners Definition of possess

: 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 \
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 \

Legal Definition of possess 

: to have possession of

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Comments on possess

What made you want to look up possess? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a state of commotion or excitement

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