tr.v. pos·sessed, pos·sess·ing, pos·sess·es
a. To have as property; own: possess great wealth.
b. Law To have under one's power or control: possess illegal drugs.
a. To have as a quality, characteristic, or other attribute: possesses great tact.
b. To have mastery or knowledge of: possess a knowledge of Sanskrit; possess valuable information.
a. To gain control or power over. Used of a demon or spirit.
b. To occupy fully the mind or feelings of: The dancers were possessed by the music.
c. Often Offensive To have sexual intercourse with (a woman).
d. Archaic To control or maintain (one's nature) in a particular condition: I possessed my temper despite the insult.
4. Archaic To cause (oneself) to own, hold, or master something, such as property or knowledge.
5. Archaic To gain or seize.
[Middle English possessen, from Old French possesser, from Latin possidēre, possess- : pos-, as master; see poti- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots + sedēre, to sit; see sed- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.