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noun Law.
  1. a person who brings suit in a court (opposed to defendant).
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Origin of plaintiff

1350–1400; Middle English plaintif complaining person, noun use of the adj.: plaintive
Related formsplain·tiff·ship, noun
Can be confusedplaintiff plaintive
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for plaintiff


  1. (formerly) a person who brings a civil action in a court of lawNow replaced by: claimant Compare defendant (def. 1)
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Word Origin

C14: from legal French plaintif, from Old French plaintif (adj) complaining, from plainte plaint
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

Word Origin and History for plaintiff


c.1400, from Anglo-French pleintif (late 13c.), noun use of Old French plaintif "complaining; wretched, miserable," from plainte (see plaint). Identical with plaintive at first; the form that receded into legal usage retained the older -iff spelling.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

plaintiff in Culture


The party that institutes a suit in a court. The person or entity the plaintiff sues is the defendant.

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