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[puh-zes] /pəˈzɛs/
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
late Middle English
1425-75; late Middle English possesen < Middle French possess(i)er, noun derivative of possession possession
Related forms
possessor, noun
possessorship, noun
underpossessor, noun
unpossessing, adjective
1. See have. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for possess
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • But we also possess capacities other than these for assimilating and using a language.

  • We possess no biographical details with regard to Verrazzano.

  • A handy volume which every practical young engineer should possess.

    Getting Gold J. C. F. Johnson
  • We possess his relics and they are enclosed in the shrine under the high altar.

    En Route J.-K. (Joris-Karl) Huysmans
  • You possess, let us say, a little knowledge of Italian, without tears.

    The King of Alsander James Elroy Flecker
British Dictionary definitions for possess


verb (transitive)
to have as one's property; own
to have as a quality, faculty, characteristic, etc: to possess good eyesight
to have knowledge or mastery of: to possess a little French
to gain control over or dominate: whatever possessed you to act so foolishly?
(foll by of) to cause to be the owner or possessor: I 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 condition: possess yourself in patience until I tell you the news
(archaic) to gain or seize
Derived Forms
possessor, noun
Word Origin
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
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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
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