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 How to pronounce possessor (audio) also  -​ˈse-​ \ 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 And whereas Mushu the dragon is nowhere to be found, a key addition that does wonders for the narrative is Xian Lang (Gong Li), a witch working for Bori Khan who can possess folks and turn into a hawk. Brian Truitt, Detroit Free Press, "Disney packs new ‘Mulan’ with action," 5 Sep. 2020 Frequent testing has been a cornerstone of federal and state plans to fight the virus in nursing homes, where many of the residents possess the underlying health conditions that make the virus more deadly. Faimon Roberts, NOLA.com, "Rapid coronavirus testing is now at Louisiana nursing homes. What does this mean for visitations?," 4 Sep. 2020 And whereas Mushu the dragon is nowhere to be found, a key addition that does wonders for the narrative is Xian Lang (Gong Li), a witch working for Bori Khan who can possess folks and turn into a hawk. Brian Truitt, USA TODAY, "Review: No singing, more sword-swinging in Disney's new and improved live-action 'Mulan'," 3 Sep. 2020 Police did arrest Jones’ husband, Jihad Haqq, who was convicted in federal court of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute heroin, fentanyl, oxycodone and hydrocodone and sentenced to 97 months in prison. Andrew Wolfson, The Courier-Journal, "Suit against Louisville police over 'violent' 2017 no-knock raid can proceed, judge rules," 3 Sep. 2020 The following defendants were charged with conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute cocaine and fentanyl, and face at least 10 years up to life in prison if convicted: Roger Earl Walton, Jr., 41, formerly of Dayton. Madeline Mitchell, The Enquirer, "Feds: 6 charged in drug conspiracy Dayton detective was investigating when he was shot and killed," 27 Aug. 2020 The Predators also possess a formidable goaltending duo in longtime starter Pekka Rinne and a promising youngster in Juuse Saros. Richard Morin, The Arizona Republic, "Coyotes prepared to embrace pressure ahead of playoff series with Predators," 2 Aug. 2020 Springtails, on the other hand, separated from the insect family tree roughly half a billion years ago and possess enzymes capable of coping with the many chemical cocktails of Streptomyces, reports Courtney Linder for Popular Mechanics. Alex Fox, Smithsonian Magazine, "How Rain Evolved Its Distinct Scent—and Why Animals and Humans Love It," 17 Apr. 2020 Geauga Park District’s three other camping areas all possess distinctive characteristics. cleveland, "Camping opportunities abound at area parks as ideal autumn weather approaches," 28 Aug. 2020

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

12 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Possess.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/possess. Accessed 24 Sep. 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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Comments on possess

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