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 Groce possesses elite athleticism and many teams run away from him, but coaches believe the Volunteers will line up and challenge the Pleasant Grove defense. Josh Bean | Jbean@al.com, al, "Scouts’ View: Breaking down Pleasant Grove vs. Central-Clay in Class 5A title game," 4 Dec. 2019 Batman doesn't possess any inhuman abilities, unlike his DC comic counterparts Superman and Wonder Woman. Cydney Henderson, USA TODAY, "'Batman' star Robert Pattinson says the Dark Knight is 'not a superhero.' Here's why," 3 Dec. 2019 If Fangio did, what would possess a 60-year-old man to take his first head coaching gig of a lengthy NFL career with the Broncos? Mark Kiszla, The Denver Post, "Kickin’ It with Kiz: Is Broncos quarterback Drew Lock a square peg doomed to fail in round hole?," 30 Nov. 2019 Connecticut law prohibits owning, possessing, keeping or training any animal to be used in fighting for amusement or gain. Gregory B. Hladky, courant.com, "Federal animal cruelty penalties have been expanded. This is how Connecticut’s animal cruelty laws have worked over the last 10 years.," 27 Nov. 2019 Non-Illinois residents may possess up to half that much. Robert Mccoppin, chicagotribune.com, "One month to go until recreational weed becomes legal in Illinois. Here’s what you need to know.," 27 Nov. 2019 Decorated with a Pro Bowl appearance in 2015 and winner of the 2013 Defensive Rookie of the Year, Richardson possesses the athleticism, build and intelligence to anchor most NFL defensive lines. Ellis L. Williams, cleveland, "Sheldon Richardson responds to Myles Garrett, Larry Ogunjobi suspensions by playing his best game as a Brown -- Film Review," 26 Nov. 2019 And with an industry-spanning, multibillion-dollar business empire, Musk possesses the tools and influence necessary to do just that—for better or worse. Dasia Moore, Quartz, "Everything you need to know about Elon Musk’s plans to change everything," 23 Nov. 2019 Najash possessed primitive features more similar to lizards, such as a cheekbone arch, as well as more snakelike features including the lack of a bony arch connecting from the skull to the cheekbone. Ashley Strickland, CNN, "Snakes had back legs for 70 million years before losing them, new fossil shows," 20 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

8 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Possess.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/possess?pronunciation&lang=en_us&dir=p&file=posses02. Accessed 13 December 2019.

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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).


easily led, controlled, or managed

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