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 The grey and blue bird gets its revenge later in the clip, possessing the ball in its beak, faking left and going right, past its defender and to the hoop for the slam. Akeem Glaspie, The Indianapolis Star, "Larry Legends: Watch birds dunk and play defense," 19 May 2020 Being a girl in this sea of boys was to be special — tough and wily and possessed of rarified taste. Eryn Loeb, Longreads, "On Watching Boys Play Music," 8 Apr. 2020 The Ebola outbreak also showed that, for Europe and the United States, possessed of a sense of entitlement and prosperity, much of Africa remained remote, or even in the realms of the imagination, defined in the writings of Conrad and Naipaul. Alan Cowell, New York Times, "Photos From a Century of Epidemics," 20 Mar. 2020 Riches now in reach The Amazon possesses a wealth of minerals including gold, diamonds, iron ore, manganese, copper, zinc and tin. Maira Irigaray, The Conversation, "Indigenous people may be the Amazon’s last hope," 27 Feb. 2020 Miller was an erudite and self-possessed college graduate who came to Manhattan and found work in men’s magazines, first at , then, at 25, as the literary editor of . Emma Specter, Vogue, "The 5 Best Books of 2020 (So Far)," 21 Feb. 2020 Giannis Antetokounmpo, limited to his worst field-goal percentage by the Sixers in the first meeting, was a man possessed on Thursday. Matt Velazquez, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Bucks 112, 76ers 101: Remember that Christmas matchup? Well, now you can forget it.," 6 Feb. 2020 Shelby Harris sprinted toward midfield like a man possessed with celebrating teammates in hot pursuit. Kyle Fredrickson, The Denver Post, "Shelby Harris seals Broncos victory with batted pass on Raiders’ 2-point conversion: “Everyone wants to be in that moment”," 29 Dec. 2019 This is in part because the local literary organization possesses the cultural capital necessary to link writers to prize organizations and publishers, and therefore to global visibility. Doseline Kiguru, Quartz Africa, "International prizes influence Africa’s modern literary canon but African writers are reshaping it," 3 Dec. 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

25 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Possess.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/possess. Accessed 26 May. 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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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

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