noun pos·ses·sion \ pə-ˈze-shən also -ˈse- \
Updated on: 19 Nov 2017

Definition of possession

1 a :the act of having or taking into control
b :control or occupancy of property without regard to 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
3 a :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


play \pə-ˈzesh-nəl, -ˈze-shə-nᵊl also -ˈsesh-nəl or -ˈse-shə-nᵊl\ adjective


play \pə-ˈze-shən-ləs, -ˈse-\ adjective

Examples of possession in a Sentence

  1. The city can take possession of the abandoned buildings.

  2. She came into possession of a rare silver coin.

  3. The family lost all of its possessions in the fire.

  4. This ring was my mother's most precious possession.

  5. The defendant was charged with heroin possession.

Recent Examples of possession from the Web

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.

First Known Use of possession

14th century

POSSESSION Defined for English Language Learners



Definition of possession for English Language Learners

  • : 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)

POSSESSION Defined for Kids


noun pos·ses·sion \ pə-ˈze-shən \

Definition of possession for Students

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

Law Dictionary


noun 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 conviction
  • State 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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