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From pre- (prefix meaning ‘before, earlier in time’) +‎ possess.[1]



prepossess (third-person singular simple present prepossesses, present participle prepossessing, simple past and past participle prepossessed) (transitive)

  1. Chiefly followed by by or with: to preoccupy (someone) in an emotional or mental way, so as to preclude other things.
    • 1639, Thomas Fuller, “The Church-story during this Kings Reigne; The Remarkable Ruine of Rodolphus Patriarch of Antioch”, in The Historie of the Holy Warre, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire: [] Thomas Buck, one of the printers to the Universitie of Cambridge [and sold by John Williams, London], OCLC 913016526, book II, page 70:
      [I]ndeed the Legate [Alberic of Ostia]came not vvith a virgin-judgement, but raviſhed vvith prejudice; being prepoſſeſſed vvith this intent to diſpoſſeſſe him [Rodolphus, or Ralph of Domfront] of his place.
    • 1642 April, John Milton, An Apology for Smectymnuus; republished in A Complete Collection of the Historical, Political, and Miscellaneous Works of John Milton, [], volume I, Amsterdam [actually London: s.n.], 1698, OCLC 926209975, page 172:
      A ſurer ſigne of his loſt ſhame he could not have given, then ſeeking thus unſeaſonably to prepoſſeſſe Men of his modeſty.
    • 1749, [John Cleland], “[Letter the First]”, in Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure [Fanny Hill], volume I, London: [] G. Fenton [i.e., Fenton and Ralph Griffiths] [], OCLC 731622352, page 105:
      [] I vvas no novice in theſe matters, ſince he had taken me out of a common bavvdy-houſe: nor had I ſaid one thing to prepoſſeſs him of my virginity; []
  2. (by extension) To cause (someone) to have a previous inclination against, for, or to something; to bias or prejudice; specifically, to induce in (someone) a favourable opinion beforehand, or at the outset.
    • c. 1631 (date written; published 1654), Thomas Fuller, “A Comment on Ruth”, in John Eglington Bailey and William E[dward] A[rmytage] Axon, editors, The Collected Sermons of Thomas Fuller, D.D. [], volume I, London: The Gresham Press; Unwin Brothers, []; Pickering & Chatto, [], published 1891, OCLC 974748052, chapter II, page 79:
      So Juſtice, which ſhould runne downe like a ſtreame, though it ariſeth out of a pure Fountaine, out of the breaſt of a ſincere and incorrupted Judge; yet if formerly it hath paſſed through the Mines of Gold and Silver, I meane, through bad Servants, who have taken bribes to prepoſſeſſe the Judge their Maſter with the prejudice of falſe informations, Juſtice hereby may be ſtrangely perverted and corrupted.
    • 1818, [Mary Shelley], chapter II, in Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. [], volume I, London: [] [Macdonald and Son] for Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor, & Jones, OCLC 830979744, page 71:
      M. Krempe was a little squat man, with a gruff voice and a repulsive countenance; the teacher, therefore, did not prepossess me in favour of his doctrine. Besides, I had a contempt for the uses of modern natural philosophy.
    • 1897 December (indicated as 1898), Winston Churchill, chapter V, in The Celebrity: An Episode, New York, N.Y.: The Macmillan Company; London: Macmillan & Co., Ltd., OCLC 222716698, page 68:
      Then came a maid with hand-bag and shawls, and after her a tall young lady. [] She looked around expectantly, and recognizing Mrs. Cooke's maid, who had stepped forward to relieve hers of the shawls, Miss Thorn greeted her with a smile which greatly prepossessed us in her favor.
  3. (obsolete)
    1. To cause (someone) to think a certain way.
      • a. 1677, Matthew Hale, “Touching the Excellency of the Humane Nature in General”, in The Primitive Origination of Mankind, Considered and Examined According to the Light of Nature, London: [] William Godbid, for William Shrowsbery, [], published 1677, OCLC 42005461, section I, page 69:
        [T]his brief Inventory I have here given as preparatory to vvhat follovvs, and to pre-poſſeſs the Reader, 1. That a natural Indagation according to the light of natural Reaſon touching the Origination of ſuch a Creature as this, is no contemptible or unvvorthy enquiry.
      • 1738, [John] Gay, “Fable III. The Baboon and the Poultry. To a Levee-hunter.”, in Fables, volume II, London: [] J[ohn] and P[aul] Knapton, []; and T[homas] Cox, [], OCLC 863501888, pages 17–18:
        VVith partial eye vve're apt to ſee / The man of noble pedigree. / VVe're prepoſſeſt my lord inherits / In ſome degree his grandſire's merits; / For thoſe vve find upon record, / But find him nothing but my lord.
      • 1811, [Jane Austen], chapter XI, in Sense and Sensibility [], volume II, London: [] C[harles] Roworth, [], and published by T[homas] Egerton, [], OCLC 20599507, page 217:
        [] Fanny and Mrs. Ferrars were both strongly prepossessed that neither she nor her daughters were such kind of women as Fanny would like to associate with.
    2. To occupy or possess (something) beforehand.
      • 1614, Walter Ralegh [i.e., Walter Raleigh], “Of the Second Punick Warre”, in The Historie of the World [], London: [] William Stansby for Walter Burre, [], OCLC 37026674, 1st book, §. XI (Strange Reports of the Roman Victories in Spaine, before Asdrubal the Sonne of Amilcar, Followed thence His Brother Hannibal into Italie), page 478:
        All paſſages out of their campe Martius [Gaius Lucius Marcius Septimus] hath prepoſſeſſed, ſo that there is no vvay to eſcape, ſaue by leaping dovvne the Rampart: []
      • a. 1717 (date written), Robert South, “Sermon II. Job viii. 13.”, in Five Additional Volumes of Sermons Preached upon Several Occasions. [], volume X, London: [] Charles Bathurst, [], published 1744, OCLC 1003976319, page 42:
        Hope is that vvhich antedates, and prepoſſeſſes a future good; that ſets it in the vievv of the vvill, vvhich alone puts all the faculties in motion.
    3. (reflexive, chiefly passive) Chiefly followed by of or with: to cause (oneself) to obtain possession of something beforehand, or ahead of someone else.
      to prepossess oneself of land

Derived terms[edit]



  1. ^ prepossess, v.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, March 2022; “prepossess, v.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–present.

Further reading[edit]