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

Now Sergio Martinez faces new charges of aiding and abetting a distribution of fentanyl that resulted in death, of possessing firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, and of money laundering, according to the statement. Jeremy C. Fox, BostonGlobe.com, "Alleged leader of Lawrence fentanyl trafficking ring charged in death of user," 14 July 2018 His criminal history includes burglary, transporting drugs and other instances of possessing drugs for sale. Lyndsay Winkley, sandiegouniontribune.com, "San Diego's Wanted: Possessing drugs for sale," 12 July 2018 Harper, who remained in custody, was convicted of illegally possessing a firearm without a license and of possession of drugs with intent to deliver. Julie Shaw, Philly.com, "Jury acquits Philly man of rape, deadlocks on 2nd rape charge," 6 July 2018 Last month, Tim Clevenger, the assistant principal at Locust Fork High School, was convicted of one count of producing child pornography and one count of possessing child pornography, according to Gilliland. Greg Hanlon, PEOPLE.com, "Alabama Teacher Told Student She Wanted to Take His Virginity, Reports to Jail," 2 July 2018 In November 2015, he was accused of possessing flakka, a street drug that caused havoc in South Florida that year. Brett Clarkson, Sun-Sentinel.com, "XXXTentacion murder suspect was previously held in gun and drug cases," 29 June 2018 In the case of the Mexican 17-year-old, the lawsuit said a staff member who suspected him of possessing contraband threw him to the ground and forcibly tore off his clothes for an impromptu strip search. USA TODAY, "Young immigrants detained in Virginia center allege abuse," 21 June 2018 In the case of the Mexican 17-year-old, the lawsuit said a staff member who suspected him of possessing contraband threw him to the ground and forcibly tore off his clothes for an impromptu strip search. CBS News, "Young immigrants detained in Virginia allege they were beaten while cuffed, left nude in cells," 21 June 2018 In the case of the Mexican 17-year-old, the lawsuit said a staff member who suspected him of possessing contraband threw him to the ground and forcibly tore off his clothes for an impromptu strip search. Michael Biesecker, chicagotribune.com, "Beatings, bags over their heads, racial slurs: Young migrants detained in Virginia allege abuse in lawsuit," 21 June 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

1 Sep 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).


to make amends

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