spurred or moved by a strong feeling, madness, or a supernatural power (often followed by by, of, or with): The army fought as if possessed. The village believed her to be possessed of the devil.
self-possessed; poised.


    possessed of, having; possessing: He is possessed of intelligence and ambition.

Origin of possessed

First recorded in 1525–35; possess + -ed2
Related formspos·sess·ed·ly [puh-zes-id-lee, -zest-lee] /pəˈzɛs ɪd li, -ˈzɛst li/, adverbpos·sess·ed·ness, nounnon·pos·sessed, adjectiveun·pos·sessed, adjective



verb (used with object)

to have as belonging to one; have as property; own: to possess a house and a car.
to have as a faculty, quality, or the like: to possess courage.
(of a spirit, especially an evil one) to occupy, dominate, or control (a person) from within: He thought he was possessed by devils.
(of a feeling, idea, etc.) to dominate or actuate in the manner of such a spirit: He was possessed by envy.
(of a man) to succeed in having sexual intercourse with.
to have knowledge of: to possess a language.
to keep or maintain (oneself, one's mind, etc.) in a certain state, as of peace, patience, etc.
to maintain control over (oneself, one's mind, etc.).
to impart to; inform; familiarize (often followed by of or with): to possess someone of the facts of the case.
to cause to be dominated or influenced, as by an idea, feeling, etc.
to make (someone) owner, holder, or master, as of property, information, etc.: He possessed them of the facts.
to seize or take.
to gain or win.
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.

Possessed, The


a novel (1871) by Dostoevsky.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for possessed

Contemporary Examples of possessed

Historical Examples of possessed

  • If Robert possessed his acknowledgment he would have no defense to make.

    Brave and Bold

    Horatio Alger

  • They possessed a system of writing of their own which they thought vastly superior.

    Ancient Man

    Hendrik Willem van Loon

  • In the beginning each little village had possessed a god of its own.

    Ancient Man

    Hendrik Willem van Loon

  • They possessed no watches but they measured time by the shadow of the sun-dial.

    Ancient Man

    Hendrik Willem van Loon

  • He distrusted his eyes, his ears, and every sense that he possessed.

British Dictionary definitions for possessed



(foll by of) owning or having
(usually postpositive) under the influence of a powerful force, such as a spirit or strong emotion
a less common word for self-possessed


verb (tr)

to have as one's property; own
to have as a quality, faculty, characteristic, etcto possess good eyesight
to have knowledge or mastery ofto possess a little French
to gain control over or dominatewhatever possessed you to act so foolishly?
(foll by of) to cause to be the owner or possessorI am possessed of the necessary information
(often foll by with) to cause to be influenced or dominated (by)the news possessed him with anger
to have sexual intercourse with
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
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 possessed

"controlled by an indwelling demon," 1530s, past participle adjective from possess (v.).



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