self-pos·​ses·​sion ˌself-pə-ˈze-shən How to pronounce self-possession (audio)
 also  -ˈse-
: control of one's emotions or reactions especially when under stress : presence of mind, composure
Choose the Right Synonym for self-possession

confidence, assurance, self-possession, aplomb mean a state of mind or a manner marked by easy coolness and freedom from uncertainty, diffidence, or embarrassment.

confidence stresses faith in oneself and one's powers without any suggestion of conceit or arrogance.

the confidence that comes from long experience

assurance carries a stronger implication of certainty and may suggest arrogance or lack of objectivity in assessing one's own powers.

handled the cross-examination with complete assurance

self-possession implies an ease or coolness under stress that reflects perfect self-control and command of one's powers.

answered the insolent question with complete self-possession

aplomb implies a manifest self-possession in trying or challenging situations.

handled the reporters with great aplomb

Examples of self-possession in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Its embrace and adaptation by the local population says something about self-possession too. Globe Staff,, 24 Aug. 2023 Her confidence and self-possession are clear in her direct gaze at the viewer. Kate C. Lemay, Smithsonian Magazine, 17 July 2023 Something often ties the people who are championed by such groups together: a self-possession, a facility with words, an ability to narrate one’s fall and redemption. Annalisa Quinn,, 5 July 2023 Smiley’s striking self-possession, even as a child, may owe much to her own mother, a crackerjack journalist. Joan Frank,, 15 June 2023 Being right there in the forefront with her brothers and sisters of the civil rights movement — that narrative alone, and her self-possession and off-the-charts intelligence, warrants a chapter in these history books. Cori Murray, The Hollywood Reporter, 2 June 2023 Now 32, Illenium has both the self-possession of an artist who knows how the game works and the openness of one who’s new to it. Rachel Narozniak, Billboard, 3 May 2023 Both had been enslaved, and the self-possession that ought to reward artistic creation can only go so far when the artist himself is a legal possession, as Dave was during his most productive period. Christopher Benfey, The New York Review of Books, 20 Apr. 2023 Three actors — Aaron Kingsley Adetola, Aven Courtney and Josiah Cross — play Terry at different ages, each one of them with extraordinary self-possession and sensitivity. Ann Hornaday, Washington Post, 29 Mar. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'self-possession.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1665, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of self-possession was in 1665

Dictionary Entries Near self-possession

Cite this Entry

“Self-possession.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


: control of one's emotions or reactions : composure
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