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

Keep scrolling for more

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



Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

Issue 1 would have changed that, reducing all drug possession offenses to misdemeanors. German Lopez, Vox, "Ohio votes against defelonizing drug possession with Issue 1," 7 Nov. 2018 Like many other states, illicit drug possession — including marijuana — may be classified as a felony charge in the Sunshine State. Danielle Corcione, Teen Vogue, "Three States Approved Legal Marijuana During Midterm Elections," 7 Nov. 2018 Heinrich, the Democrat, recently threw his support behind legalizing marijuana, while Johnson already is contemplating how to provide pardons for legions of drug-possession convicts. Morgan Lee, The Seattle Times, "Libertarian says Trump, Democrats need a swing-vote senator," 9 Oct. 2018 Sammy Shehata was arrested on drug possession charges after deputies found 7 grams of marijuana and 11 grams of hashish. Lisa Maria Garza, OrlandoSentinel.com, "Former Orange deputy pleads guilty to stealing cash, credit cards from drug suspect, court records show," 11 July 2018 Justin Foss is also accused of felony murder connected to his weapons possession charge. Chelsea Prince, ajc, "Georgia parents charged after 4-year-old son shoots, kills himself," 11 July 2018 Another would reduce the penalties for drug possession from a felony, which could result in prison time, to a misdemeanor among other changes. Jessie Balmert, Cincinnati.com, "Dialysis to duels: Why Ohio keeps voting on odd, complicated ballot issues," 5 July 2018 The following suspects were arrested on drug possession charges: Steven Esparza, 40, Sandra Gonzales, 46, Joe Zuniga, 29, Lee Roy Martinez, 22, Stephen De Los Santos, 23, Mark Gonzales, 21, Lori Ramirez, 17 and Amber Carranza, 23. Dana Burke, Houston Chronicle, "8 arrested in drug bust at Rosenberg motel," 3 July 2018 In 2016, voters approved a state question to make any drug possession crime a misdemeanor, despite opposition to that proposal from law enforcement and prosecutors. CBS News, "Oklahoma voters approve medical marijuana despite bitter opposition," 27 June 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.

See More

First Known Use of possession

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about possession

Share possession

Statistics for possession

Last Updated

26 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for possession

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


to move with a clumsy heavy tread

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Late Autumn 2018 Words of the Day Quiz

  • frosted-autumn-leaves
  • Which is a synonym of yahoo?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!