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[pleyn-tif] /ˈpleɪn tɪf/
noun, Law.
a person who brings suit in a court (opposed to defendant).
1350-1400; Middle English plaintif complaining person, noun use of the adj.: plaintive
Related forms
plaintiffship, noun
Can be confused
plaintiff, plaintive. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples for plaintiffs
  • The plaintiffs' lawyers in some of these cases cited his research.
  • Featured here are the complaints submitted by the plaintiffs, and the judgments ultimately delivered.
  • The plaintiffs originally included religiously motivated groups, who were ruled to lack legal standing.
  • Regulators and state prosecutors have more powers to demand information than private plaintiffs do.
  • The case was brought by civil plaintiffs, against the advice of the public prosecutor.
  • The plaintiffs were asking either to be allowed out on parole or to have the conditions of their incarceration changed.
  • She knows plaintiffs who cannot afford to sue at all, for fear of the e-discovery costs.
  • He likes to remind the plaintiffs that they have rights but may not have remedies.
  • One of the plaintiffs was dyslexic and had hired tutors to help him.
  • Even if they win, it will take years for plaintiffs to be compensated.
British Dictionary definitions for plaintiffs


(formerly) a person who brings a civil action in a court of law Now replaced by claimant Compare defendant (sense 1)
Word Origin
C14: from legal French plaintif, from Old French plaintif (adj) complaining, from plainteplaint
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 plaintiffs



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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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plaintiffs in Culture

plaintiff definition

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

The American Heritage® 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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