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 also  -​ˈse-​ How to pronounce possessor (audio) \ 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

Just 14 percent of the richest quintile of older households were in a similar predicament, with over 50 percent of that group possessing retirement savings of $500,000 or more. Washington Post, "Poor and middle-class Americans are much less likely to survive into their 70s than the wealthy, federal report says," 10 Sep. 2019 At that time he was also charged with possessing methamphetamines. oregonlive, "Trespasser arrested after stabbing restaurant manager, police say," 6 Sep. 2019 Matthew Jamail Sewell was charged with possessing MDMA for distribution, and court records allege that 29 pounds of the drug, 3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine, were found during the investigation. Nate Gartrell, The Mercury News, "Feds: Oakland man used multiple IDs to receive large shipments of ecstasy," 4 Sep. 2019 Skip to main content SOUTH PLAINFIELD, N.J. – A man has been arrested and charged with possessing explosive devices, an incident that resulted in the cancellation of the annual South Plainfield Labor Day Parade. Nick Muscavage, USA TODAY, "Labor Day parade canceled after explosive devices found; New Jersey governor was to attend," 2 Sep. 2019 Pep Guardiola's recruits are a phenomenal outfit and should take first place at a canter, with the Ukrainians possessing more than enough quality to see off minnows Dinamo Zagreb and new boys Atalanta. SI.com, "UEFA Champions League 2019/20: Grading the Difficulty of Each Group," 31 Aug. 2019 During a hearing for a man charged with possessing a small amount of crack cocaine, the public defender — a third-year Boston College Law School student who hailed from Nebraska — asked for bail to be set at $200. Globe Staff, BostonGlobe.com, "Judge Darrell L. Outlaw, who spoke out against the prevalence of guns, dies at 95," 22 Aug. 2019 He was charged with possessing child pornography on July 18. Vic Ryckaert, Indianapolis Star, "Retired Hamilton County deputy posted child pornography to Pinterest, police say," 19 Aug. 2019 The new report also confirms something that researchers have suspected for a while: Unlike other regions of the world, the United States doesn’t possess its own unique strain of C. auris. Maryn Mckenna, WIRED, "The Desperate Race to Neutralize a Lethal Superbug Yeast," 13 Aug. 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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Statistics for possess

Last Updated

15 Sep 2019

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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

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on possess

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with possess

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for possess

Spanish Central: Translation of possess

Nglish: Translation of possess for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of possess for Arabic Speakers

Comments on possess

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miscellaneous remnants or debris

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