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 also  -​ˈse-​ How to pronounce possessor (audio) \ 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 On Monday, those activists were charged with possessing weapons including handguns, a shotgun and gas bombs. Washington Post, "Nicaragua’s government in fierce clash with Catholic Church over hunger strikes," 19 Nov. 2019 Watching the Mandalorian face off against a horde of Jawas or battle a hairy desert beast (with the assistance of his alien quarry, who possesses some modicum of Jedi power) had more pure, joyful energy than the dreary first episode. David Sims, The Atlantic, "How The Mandalorian Can Work for Disney+," 18 Nov. 2019 And a clear majority of Democratic voters say the ability to beat Mr. Trump is the single most important attribute a candidate can possess. Musadiq Bidar, CBS News, "While leading nationally, Joe Biden faces headwinds in Iowa," 18 Nov. 2019 Two men were charged in federal court Thursday with possessing fentanyl with intent to distribute in a case involving a brick-sized amount of the dangerous drug that was found in a west Denver residence. Kieran Nicholson, The Denver Post, "Denver men charged in case involving 2-pound brick of fentanyl," 15 Nov. 2019 Sprewer was charged with possessing THC with intent to deliver 16 years ago. Jordyn Noennig, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Gov. Tony Evers issues pardons to eight individuals who committed crimes more than a decade ago.," 10 Nov. 2019 After an 85-yard touchdown pass from Tua Tagovailoa to DeVonta Smith made the score 46-41, Alabama’s defense took the field with one minute and 21 seconds remaining and with the Tide possessing two timeouts. Matt Zenitz | Mzenitz@al.com, al, "Why Alabama defensive setback shouldn’t come as a shock," 10 Nov. 2019 Quevin Romero, 25, of Glen Burnie, was arrested and charged with possessing a loaded handgun in his vehicle after being located by police in the area shortly after the alleged assault Oct. 21, according to court records. Taylor Deville, baltimoresun.com, "Three arrested, one charged after armed assault in Baltimore," 29 Oct. 2019 With a team possessing two returning starters when the season began, the Broncos have made progress and bring a three-game winning streak into the contest. Pomerado News, "Poway hopes to return to winning ways," 3 Oct. 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

24 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Possess.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/possessor?pronunciation&lang=en_us&dir=p&file=posse1s3. Accessed 5 December 2019.

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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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