[ puh-zes ]
See synonyms for: possesspossessedpossessespossessing 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.

  1. (of a spirit, especially an evil one) to occupy, dominate, or control (a person) from within: He thought he was possessed by devils.

  2. (of a feeling, idea, etc.) to dominate or actuate in the manner of such a spirit: He was possessed by envy.

  3. (of a man) to succeed in having sexual intercourse with.

  4. to have knowledge of: to possess a language.

  5. to keep or maintain (oneself, one's mind, etc.) in a certain state, as of peace, patience, etc.

  6. to maintain control over (oneself, one's mind, etc.).

  7. to impart to; inform; familiarize (often followed by of or with): to possess someone of the facts of the case.

  8. to cause to be dominated or influenced, as by an idea, feeling, etc.

  9. to make (someone) owner, holder, or master, as of property, information, etc.: He possessed them of the facts.

  10. to seize or take.

  11. to gain or win.

  12. to occupy or hold.

Origin of possess

First recorded in 1425–75; late Middle English possesen, from Middle French possess(i)er, noun derived from possession possession

synonym study For possess

1. See have.

Other words from possess

  • pos·ses·sor, noun
  • pos·ses·sor·ship, noun
  • un·der·pos·ses·sor, noun
  • un·pos·sess·ing, adjective

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use possess in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for possess


/ (pəˈzɛs) /

  1. to have as one's property; own

  2. to have as a quality, faculty, characteristic, etc: to possess good eyesight

  1. to have knowledge or mastery of: to possess a little French

  2. to gain control over or dominate: whatever possessed you to act so foolishly?

  3. (foll by of) to cause to be the owner or possessor: I am possessed of the necessary information

  4. (often foll by with) to cause to be influenced or dominated (by): the news possessed him with anger

  5. to have sexual intercourse with

  6. rare to keep control over or maintain (oneself or one's feelings) in a certain state or condition: possess yourself in patience until I tell you the news

  7. archaic to gain or seize

Origin of possess

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

Derived forms of possess

  • possessor, 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