See more synonyms for possess on Thesaurus.com
verb (used with object)
  1. to have as belonging to one; have as property; own: to possess a house and a car.
  2. to have as a faculty, quality, or the like: to possess courage.
  3. (of a spirit, especially an evil one) to occupy, dominate, or control (a person) from within: He thought he was possessed by devils.
  4. (of a feeling, idea, etc.) to dominate or actuate in the manner of such a spirit: He was possessed by envy.
  5. (of a man) to succeed in having sexual intercourse with.
  6. to have knowledge of: to possess a language.
  7. to keep or maintain (oneself, one's mind, etc.) in a certain state, as of peace, patience, etc.
  8. to maintain control over (oneself, one's mind, etc.).
  9. to impart to; inform; familiarize (often followed by of or with): to possess someone of the facts of the case.
  10. to cause to be dominated or influenced, as by an idea, feeling, etc.
  11. to make (someone) owner, holder, or master, as of property, information, etc.: He possessed them of the facts.
  12. to seize or take.
  13. to gain or win.
  14. to occupy or hold.

Origin of possess

1425–75; late Middle English possesen < Middle French possess(i)er, noun derivative of possession possession
Related formspos·ses·sor, nounpos·ses·sor·ship, nounun·der·pos·ses·sor, nounun·pos·sess·ing, adjective

Synonym study

1. See have.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for possess

Contemporary Examples of possess

Historical Examples of possess

  • The misfortune was that this was the only thing they cared to possess.


    Thomas Wentworth Higginson

  • In painting, we believe we possess a school second to none of modern art.

  • If our whole horizon of truth were not broadened, we could not possess this command.

  • There are some papers and some money I must possess myself of.

  • It is tragic how few people ever ‘possess their souls’ before they die.

    De Profundis

    Oscar Wilde

British Dictionary definitions for possess


verb (tr)
  1. to have as one's property; own
  2. to have as a quality, faculty, characteristic, etcto possess good eyesight
  3. to have knowledge or mastery ofto possess a little French
  4. to gain control over or dominatewhatever possessed you to act so foolishly?
  5. (foll by of) to cause to be the owner or possessorI am possessed of the necessary information
  6. (often foll by with) to cause to be influenced or dominated (by)the news possessed him with anger
  7. to have sexual intercourse with
  8. rare to keep control over or maintain (oneself or one's feelings) in a certain state or conditionpossess yourself in patience until I tell you the news
  9. archaic to gain or seize
Derived Formspossessor, noun

Word Origin for possess

C15: from Old French possesser, from Latin possidēre to own, occupy; related to Latin sedēre to sit
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 possess

late 14c., "to hold, occupy, reside in" (without regard to ownership), a back formation from possession and in part from Old French possesser "to have and hold, take, be in possession of" (mid-13c.), from Latin possess-, past participle stem of possidere "to have and hold, possess, be master of, own," from posse "to be able," from potis "able, powerful" (see potent) + esse "to be" (see be). Meaning "to hold as property" is recorded from c.1500. Demonic sense is recorded from 1530s (implied in possessed). Related: Possessed; possessing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper