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 also  -​ˈse-​ How to pronounce possessor (audio) \ 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 In that unrelated incident, he was charged with attempting to elude and certain persons forbidden from possessing a firearm. Carol Robinson | Crobinson@al.com, al, "Suspect charged in shooting of Gardendale store clerk during holdup," 13 Jan. 2020 One bill will close a loophole in current laws which do not allow violent criminals from possessing firearms by further prohibiting anyone convicted of a hate crime from owning a gun. Alaa Elassar, CNN, "Virginia attorney general reintroduces bills aimed at cracking down on hate crimes," 7 Jan. 2020 The Santa Clara City Council passed an ordinance last year prohibiting those under 21 from possessing tobacco products. Catherine Ho, SFChronicle.com, "A fine on kids who vape? Some California cities want it," 4 Jan. 2020 The Islamic State remains a long way from possessing the capacity to retake territory, said Brig. Washington Post, "ISIS at a crossroads," 24 Dec. 2019 Kelly, who was convicted of felonious assault in the 1970s, is legally prohibited from possessing guns. Kevin Grasha, Cincinnati.com, "North Avondale 'loan shark' sentenced for murder-for-hire plot," 23 Dec. 2019 Agents then determined that Al Helwani, who is from Syria, had been admitted into the United States as a nonimmigrant tourist, which prohibits him from possessing firearms. Justin L. Mack, Indianapolis Star, "Syrian national living in Fishers indicted on federal firearm charges found not guilty," 9 Dec. 2019 Evers has called on lawmakers to take up legislation that would expand background checks, requiring them for online sales, and give judges more authority to bar anyone deemed threatening from possessing firearms. Molly Beck, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "What is going on? Fears of school shootings hit eight Wisconsin high schools in three days.," 3 Dec. 2019 He'd been barred from possessing them after a 1998 felony criminal mischief conviction, prosecutors said. CBS News, "Man pleads guilty to threatening to kill Democrat Ilhan Omar," 19 Nov. 2019

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

20 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Possess.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/possess. Accessed 23 January 2020.

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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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More from Merriam-Webster on possess

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for possess

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with possess

Spanish Central: Translation of possess

Nglish: Translation of possess for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of possess for Arabic Speakers

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).


out of the ordinary or unreasonable

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