Definition of posse in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈpäsē/


1US historical A body of men, typically armed, summoned by a sheriff to enforce the law.
Example sentences
  • Sheriffs' posses were sent from the mainland with arrest warrants, but Strang, with the help of his lieutenants, evaded capture by skirting the island's shores in a ramshackle boat.
  • In colonial America, policing relied on community consensus and citizens' service as constables and in sheriffs' posses.
  • The station looked deserted, but it wouldn't be for long once the news reached Alpha Station, and where in the galaxies were the sheriff and his posse?
1.1 (also posse comitatus /ˌkämiˈtätəs/ /-tātəs/) British historical The body of men in a county whom the sheriff could summon to enforce the law.
Comitatus from medieval Latin, 'of the county'
Example sentences
  • Prior to the emergence of the police, ordinary citizens would bring what arms they had in response to a ‘hue and cry’ or when serving on a posse comitatus.
  • The Senate added language to account for constitutional authority to use the Army as a posse comitatus, or otherwise, to execute the laws.
1.2 informal A group of people who have a common characteristic, occupation, or purpose: he pompously led around a posse of medical students
More example sentences
  • The instrument, his long-term comedy partner, was still around for support but he also introduced a posse of new characters and comedy situations.
  • To this end he created a posse of brilliantly realised characters, each complete with their own distinctive voices, personalities and catchphrases.
  • Seemingly all the pre-match focus was on the striker, as a posse of photographers lurking in the press room testified.
company, gathering
informal bunch, gaggle, load
1.3 informal A group of people who socialize together, especially to go to clubs or raves.
Example sentences
  • No-neck goons in black turtlenecks and lumpy suit jackets are fine if you want to hit a dance club with a posse, but they are not effective for executives.
  • My hard work is paying off as each Thursday my posse of party people gets bigger and bigger.
  • My children, looking gruesome, go off with their posse and gather armfuls of treats.


Mid 17th century: from medieval Latin, literally 'power', from Latin posse 'be able'.

  • The word posse calls to mind the image, familiar from Westerns, of a body of men being recruited by a sheriff and saddling up to pursue outlaws or other wrongdoers. The key element in its meaning is not the pursuing, though, but the fact that the sheriff has empowered this group of people to enforce the law. In medieval Latin posse meant ‘power’, and came from Latin posse ‘to be able’. Posse pre-dated the widespread colonization of the USA, and was first used in Britain during the mid 17th century to mean ‘an assembled force or band’ and specifically ‘the population of local able-bodied men summoned by a sheriff to stop a riot or pursue criminals’. See also power. Possible (Late Middle English) comes from the same root, while Latin potentia ‘power’ formed from posse, gives us words such as potent, potentate, and potential (all LME).

Words that rhyme with posse

bossy, Flossie, flossy, glossy, mossy

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: pos·se

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