American English

Definition of possession noun from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary



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  1. 1[uncountable] (formal) the state of having or owning something The manuscript is just one of the treasures in their possession. The gang was caught in possession of stolen goods. The possession of a passport is essential for foreign travel. On her father's death, she came into possession of (= received) a vast fortune. You cannot legally take possession of the property (= start using it after buying it) until three weeks after the contract is signed.
  2. 2[countable, usually plural] something that you own or have with you at a particular time synonym belongings personal possessions The ring is one of her most treasured possessions. Please make sure you have all your possessions with you when leaving the plane. Thesaurusthingsstuff property possessions junk belongings goods valuablesThese are all words for objects or items, especially ones that you own or have with you at a particular time.things (somewhat informal) objects, clothing, or tools that you own or that are used for a particular purpose:Can I help you pack your things? This box is full of camping things.stuff (informal) used to refer to a group of objects when you do not know their names, when the names are not important, or when it is obvious what you are talking about:Where's all my stuff? Don't forget your swimming stuff.things or stuff?These words are similar and often you can use either. Use things when the items might be used individually as tools (sewing thingsgardening things). Use stuff to refer to all the equipment necessary for one particular activity or (somewhat formal) a thing or things that are owned by someone:This building is government property. Be careful not to damage other people's property.possessions things that you own, especially something that can be moved:Prisoners were allowed no personal possessions except letters and photographs.junk things that are considered useless or of little value:I've cleared out all that old junk from the attic.belongings possessions that can be moved, especially ones that you have with you at a particular time:Please make sure you have all your belongings with you when leaving the plane.goods (somewhat formal or technical) possessions that can be moved:She was found guilty of trading in stolen goods.valuables things that are worth a lot of money, especially small personal things such as jewelry or cameras:Never leave cash or other valuables lying around.Patterns personal things/stuff/property/possessions/belongings to collect/gather/pack (up) your things/stuff/possessions/belongings to search somebody's/your/the things/stuff/property/belongings to go through somebody's/your/the things/stuff/belongings
  3. in sports
  4. 3[uncountable] the state of having control of the ball to win/get/lose possession of the ball The home team had most of the possession in the first half.
  5. law
  6. 4[uncountable] the state of having illegal drugs or weapons with you at a particular time She was charged with possession.
  7. country
  8. 5[countable] (formal) a country that is controlled or governed by another country The former colonial possessions are now independent states.
  9. by evil spirit
  10. 6[uncountable] the situation when someone's mind is believed to be controlled by the devil or by an evil spirit
  11. Idioms
    leave the field clear for somebody, leave somebody in possession of the field
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    to enable someone to be successful in a particular area of activity because other people or groups have given up competing with them The complete disarray of the administration's opponents leaves the field clear for the president to implement urgent reforms.
    possession is nine tenths of the law (saying)
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    if you already have or control something, it is difficult for someone else to take it away from you, even if they have the legal right to it
See the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary entry: possession