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[puh-zes-iv] /pəˈzɛs ɪv/
jealously opposed to the personal independence of, or to any influence other than one's own upon, a child, spouse, etc.
desirous of possessing, especially excessively so:
Young children are so possessive they will not allow others to play with their toys; a possessive lover.
of or relating to possession or ownership.
  1. indicating possession, ownership, origin, etc. His in his book is a possessive adjective. His in The book is his is a possessive pronoun.
  2. noting or pertaining to a case that indicates possession, ownership, origin, etc., as, in English, John's in John's hat.
noun, Grammar.
the possessive case.
a form in the possessive.
Origin of possessive
From the Latin word possessīvus, dating back to 1520-30. See possess, -ive
Related forms
possessively, adverb
possessiveness, noun
nonpossessive, adjective
nonpossessively, adverb
nonpossessiveness, noun
unpossessive, adjective
unpossessively, adverb
unpossessiveness, noun
Can be confused
possessive, possessory. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for possessive
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • But he passed them by, for she was waiting for him and he was hungry for the possessive love of his slave.

    Life Sentence James McConnell
  • The possessive construction seems to me, however, to be preferable.

    The Verbalist Thomas Embly Osmun, (AKA Alfred Ayres)
  • The pronoun which, originally indeclinable, had no possessive.

    The Verbalist Thomas Embly Osmun, (AKA Alfred Ayres)
  • His eyes were an index of the man, bold and possessive and unwavering.

    The Highgrader William MacLeod Raine
  • They never used the "s" in indication of the possessive case.

    My Bondage and My Freedom Frederick Douglass
  • Nouns in the plural ending in s take an apostrophe only to form the possessive.

    Punctuation Frederick W. Hamilton
  • Was it a shade too possessive and complacently sure for a stranger?

    A Voice in the Wilderness Grace Livingston Hill
  • It is an ecstasy completely purged of the possessive instinct.

    The Complex Vision John Cowper Powys
  • Of all mortal instincts, the possessive instinct is the most insidious and most evil.

    The Complex Vision John Cowper Powys
British Dictionary definitions for possessive


of or relating to possession or ownership
having or showing an excessive desire to possess, control, or dominate: a possessive mother
  1. another word for genitive (sense 1)
  2. denoting an inflected form of a noun or pronoun used to convey the idea of possession, association, etc, as my or Harry's
  1. the possessive case
  2. a word or speech element in the possessive case
Derived Forms
possessively, adverb
possessiveness, noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for possessive

mid-15c. (grammatical, also as a noun); 1550s in general use, from Middle French possessif (15c.) "relating to possession, possessive," and directly from Latin possessivus, from possess-, past participle stem of possidere "to possess" (see possess). Related: Possessively; possessiveness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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possessive in Culture

possessive definition

The case of a noun or pronoun that shows possession. Nouns are usually made possessive by adding an apostrophe and s: “The bicycle is Sue's, not Mark's.” Possessive pronouns can take the place of possessive nouns: “The bicycle is hers, not his.” (See nominative case and objective case.)

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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