pos·ses·sion | \pə-ˈze-shən also -ˈse- \

Definition of possession 

1a : the act of having or taking into control

b : control or occupancy of property without regard to ownership

c : ownership

d : control of the ball or puck also : an instance of having such control (as in football) scored on their first two possessions

2 : something owned, occupied, or controlled : property

3a : domination by something (such as an evil spirit, a passion, or an idea)

b : a psychological state in which an individual's normal personality is replaced by another

c : self-possession

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Other Words from possession

possessional \pə-ˈzesh-nəl, -ˈze-shə-nᵊl also -ˈsesh-nəl or -ˈse-shə-nᵊl \ adjective
possessionless \pə-ˈze-shən-ləs, -ˈse- \ adjective

Synonyms & Antonyms for possession


control, enjoyment, hands, keeping



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Examples of possession in a Sentence

The city can take possession of the abandoned buildings. She came into possession of a rare silver coin. The family lost all of its possessions in the fire. This ring was my mother's most precious possession. The defendant was charged with heroin possession.
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Recent Examples on the Web

If the Wildcats can harness that emotion the right way, there is enough veteran experience on both sides of the ball to regain possession of the Governor’s Cup. Jon Hale, The Courier-Journal, "How Kentucky football can win (or lose) against Louisville in 2018," 13 July 2018 The experienced point guard nailed a three-pointer on the opening possession of the extra period, then after a defensive stop knocked down a midrange jumper. Matt Velazquez, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "It's a start! Top pick Donte DiVincenzo plays his first game as a Buck," 12 July 2018 Currently, Drake holds possession of the No. 1 spot on the Billboard 200 with his fifth studio album Scorpion. Carl Lamarre, Billboard, "Watch Drake Put His Best Dance Moves to the Test For the 'In My Feelings' Challenge," 12 July 2018 The suspect has a criminal history in Harris County that includes possession of marijuana, a first-offense DWI and evading detention. Victoria Cheyne, Houston Chronicle, "Shore Acres man accused of stealing guitars from La Porte church," 11 July 2018 The Numbers Belgium was the short-passing team in this game, controlling possession at 58-42 percent and outpassing France, 318-201. Rory Smith, New York Times, "France, With Flash to Spare, Reaches the World Cup Final," 11 July 2018 But on Memphis’ ensuing possession, Isaac poked the ball away from Jackson, collected it and absorbed a clear-path foul from Jackson. Josh Robbins, OrlandoSentinel.com, "Mo Bamba, Jonathan Isaac and Magic dominate on defense against Grizzlies," 9 July 2018 Barry Cofield, 34, was arrested on charges including possession of heroin, fleeing and eluding, and aggravated assault on a police officer. Michael Williams Orlando Sentinel, star-telegram, "Super Bowl Giant busted with heroin after allegedly ramming cop car," 7 July 2018 Two more Lawrence residents — Luz DeJesus, 33, and Henry Marte, 21 — have been charged with conspiracy and possession with the intention to distribute fentanyl. Jeremy C. Fox, BostonGlobe.com, "Alleged leader of Lawrence fentanyl trafficking ring charged in death of user," 14 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'possession.' 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 possession

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

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Phrases Related to possession

have in one's possession

vacant possession

Statistics for possession

Last Updated

15 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for possession

The first known use of possession was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for possession



English Language Learners Definition of possession

: the condition of having or owning something

: something that is owned or possessed by someone

law : the crime of having something that is illegal (such as a drug or weapon)


pos·ses·sion | \pə-ˈze-shən \

Kids Definition of possession

1 : the condition of having or owning something The will is in my possession.

2 : something that is held by someone as property a valuable possession


pos·ses·sion | \pə-ˈze-shən \

Legal Definition of possession 

1 : the act, fact, or condition of having control of something: as

a : actual possession in this entry

b : constructive possession in this entry

c : knowing dominion and control over a controlled substance or other contraband

d in the civil law of Louisiana : the detention or enjoyment of a corporeal thing

e : control or occupancy of property

actual possession

1 : direct occupancy, use, or control of real property had actual possession of the land despite a lack of legal title

2 : direct physical custody, care, or control of property or contraband (as illegal drugs) actual possession is not necessary to sustain a convictionState v. Garrison, 896 S.W.2d 689 (1995)

adverse possession

: actual possession of another's real property that is open, hostile, exclusive, continuous, adverse to the claim of the owner, often under a claim of right or color of title, and that may give rise to title in the possessor if carried out for a specified statutory period (as ten years) also : the method of acquiring title by such possession — see also hostile possession and notorious possession in this entry — compare prescription

civil possession

in the civil law of Louisiana : possession that exists by virtue of an intent to be the owner of a property even though one no longer occupies or has physical control of it

constructive possession

1 : possession that exists by virtue of a right (as by title) rather than direct occupancy or control

2 : the knowing ability and sometimes intent to exercise dominion and control over something (as illegal drugs) either directly or through others

hostile possession

: possession (as in adverse possession) that is antagonistic to the claims of all others (as a record owner) and that is carried out with the intention to possess the property exclusively

notorious possession

: possession (as in adverse possession) that is so conspicuous that it is generally known by people in the vicinity of the property and so gives rise to a presumption that the owner has notice of it

precarious possession

in the civil law of Louisiana : possession of property that is exercised by another (as a lessee) with the permission of or on behalf of the owner — see also acquisitive prescription at prescription

2 : something controlled, occupied, or owned personal possessions

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Comments on possession

What made you want to look up possession? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


not any or not one

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