plain·​tiff | \ ˈplān-təf How to pronounce plaintiff (audio) \

Definition of plaintiff

: a person who brings a legal action — compare defendant

Synonyms & Antonyms for plaintiff



Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Did you know?

We won't complain about the origins of plaintiff, although complain and plaintiff are distantly related; both can be traced back to plangere, a Latin word meaning "to strike, beat one's breast, or lament." Plaintiff comes most immediately from Middle English plaintif, itself an Anglo-French borrowing tracing back to plaint, meaning "lamentation." (The English word plaintive is also related.) Logically enough, plaintiff applies to the one who does the complaining in a legal case.

Examples of plaintiff in a Sentence

the judge ruled that the plaintiff's lawsuit was groundless, and he dismissed it
Recent Examples on the Web The cases might not go to trial until after February 2023, but Buzbee noted the first plaintiff, Ashley Solis, would like to try her case in July. Brent Schrotenboer, USA TODAY, 7 May 2022 The plaintiff in the case, the housing watchdog group Housing Rights Initiative, hopes the reforms outlined by the 23 companies will prompt other landlords and brokers to make changes. Washington Post, 5 Apr. 2022 In the United States, the First Amendment puts the burden of proof on the plaintiff, who must prove that a writer acted with reckless disregard for the truth. David Segal, New York Times, 29 Mar. 2022 The ruling also comes less than 24 hours after the suit’s plaintiff, U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., filed a memo objecting to Brooks being dropped from the case. Paul Gattis |, al, 9 Mar. 2022 The lead plaintiff, Yassir Fazaga, was an iman at the Orange County Islamic Foundation, a mosque in Mission Viejo. Los Angeles Times, 4 Mar. 2022 One plaintiff, the owner of a rental home in Oakland, said one of his tenants had paid rent regularly for 10 years but stopped paying $1,500 a month at the start of the moratorium and has not resumed, for reasons unrelated to the pandemic. Bob Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, 1 Mar. 2022 In a statement relayed this week by his legal team, a plaintiff in that case, Ramon Melendez Sr., argued that using the money that way would be just. Democrat-gazette Staff From Wire Reports, Arkansas Online, 12 Feb. 2022 The plaintiff of the suit, filed in New York’s Southern District Court last week, is the Canadian holding company Free Holdings, whose owner was not named in the lawsuit. Shanti Escalante-de Mattei For Artnews, Robb Report, 7 Feb. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'plaintiff.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of plaintiff

14th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for plaintiff

Middle English plaintif, from Anglo-French, from pleintif, adjective

Learn More About plaintiff

Time Traveler for plaintiff

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Listen to Our Podcast About plaintiff

Dictionary Entries Near plaintiff



plain tire

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for plaintiff

Last Updated

15 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Plaintiff.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 May. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for plaintiff


plain·​tiff | \ ˈplān-təf How to pronounce plaintiff (audio) \

Legal Definition of plaintiff

: the party who institutes a legal action or claim (as a counterclaim) — see also complainant, complaint, libellant — compare defendant, prosecution

History and Etymology for plaintiff

Middle French plaintif, from plaintif, adj., grieving, from plaint lamentation, from Latin planctus, from plangere to strike, beat one's breast, lament

More from Merriam-Webster on plaintiff

Nglish: Translation of plaintiff for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of plaintiff for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about plaintiff


Test Your Vocabulary

Which Word Does Not Belong?

  • one green toy robot amidst many red toy robots
  • Which of these words does not mean "nonsense"?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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