While reading an answer on another StackExchange site I noticed someone had written

According to wikipedia, the world record is 69 and is owned by Mrs. Vassilyev.

This caused me to wonder if "owned" was the correct or commonly used term for possession of a record, since I had never before heard it used in this context, having myself always used the term "held" when referencing records. Is "owned" correct to use in this situation? And is there an accepted term for this?

  • 4
    "hold" is what springs to mind. "The world record is held by Ms. X."
    – Elian
    Nov 9 '15 at 18:11
  • hold a world record vs own a world record: books.google.com/ngrams/…
    – user66974
    Nov 9 '15 at 18:13
  • 1
    The verb hold is one way to say it. The verb own is fine, too – have a look
    – J.R.
    Nov 9 '15 at 18:14
  • @Josh61 On your link, I can see the graph for hold a world record but not own a world record - is this some error or is the graph for own merely so small it is not visible?
    – user116295
    Nov 9 '15 at 18:17
  • 1
    @J.R.: Whilst I don't have any real problem with the usage, there's no doubt that relatively speaking owns the world record for (something) is barely even an "also-ran" by comparison with holds the world record for (it). Google Books estimates just 64 instances of the former, as against 15,300 for the more common verb. Nov 9 '15 at 18:30

Is it a valid usage? If it isn't, sports journalists around the globe need to do a lot of correcting. It seems like, no matter the sport, someone owns a record somewhere:

Basketball: Thurmond owns the record of most rebounds in a quarter with 18.

Baseball: Speaker owns the record for most doubles hit in a single career, with 793.

Ice Hockey: Daniel Sedin already owns the record for most shots taken in a Canuck uniform.

(American) Football: The Hall of Famer [Rice] owns the record for most receptions and touchdown catches in NFL history.

Football (Soccer): We’ve already told you about Ronaldo, the Brazilian phenom who owns the record for most goals scored in a World Cup career with 15.

Cricket: Gayle with 43 boundary sixes to his credit owns the record for most boundary sixes scored by a batsman in the tournament.

Lacrosse: She owns the record for most caused turnovers in a season with 45.

Tennis: Australia's Sam Groth owns the record for the world's hardest serve.

Golf: Nick Faldo owns the record for most Ryder Cup appearances overall with 11.

Auto Racing: He [Gordon] also owns the record for most road course wins all-time with nine.

Land Speed Racing: The Americans owned the record until the Brits took possession of it in 1983.

Gymnastics: At 87, Johanna Quass owns the record for the oldest gymnast as a regular competitor at Landes-Seniorenspiele in Saxony, Germany.

Fighting: Silva, who owns the record of most title defenses in UFC history, believes that Jones in on his way to becoming the best fighter of all time.

Moreover, this usage of the word goes outside the realm of athletic records, branching into domains such as music, theater, logistics, and aviation:

  • Kelly already owns the record for the most cumulative time in space of any American astronaut, thanks to three previous missions to the ISS.

  • The SCSPA’s Port of Charleston .. owns the record for most container moves per hour per crane.

  • It [Avengers: Age of Ultron] fell way short of its 2012 predecessor, which owns the record for most profitable debut at $207.4 million domestically

  • Jackson owns the record for the most Hot 100 No. 1 singles from one album – with five from his 1987 album Bad.

As for whether or not the dictionaries acknowledge this usage, I haven't found such a definition mentioned in a dictionary directly. However, the OED, under its entry for own, says:

own (verb) to have belonging to one

while Macmillan says:

own (verb) used for showing that something belongs to a particular person or thing and not to any other

So, if a record can belong to someone, then it stands to reason that that person can own a record just as easily as they can hold it. Not only that, saying a record belongs to someone (or something) isn't unheard of, either:

  • College of St. Francis baseball coach Gordie Gillespie will break the record for most victories held by a coach at an NCAA or NAIA institution. That record belongs to former Southern Cal coach Rod Dedeaux.

  • That record belongs to the Idaho Stampede, who won the highest-scoring game in league history, 165-153.

  • That record belongs to the 2008 Batman movie The Dark Knight, which collected $158.4 million (£98.2 million) in its initial three days.

  • But the GTO failed to meet widespread expectations that it could become the most expensive car ever sold - period. That record belongs to a Ferrari GTO sibling sold in a private sale last year for about $52 million.

  • However, despite being the longest drilled hole in the world, the ERD well isn’t actually the deepest. That record belongs to the Kola Borehole.

When it comes to being associated with various records, own may not be likely to challenge hold as the de facto verb, but I'm glad our language allows for synonyms, even if they happen to be distant underdogs or so-called also-rans.


I've also heard the expression "holds" as in "she holds the record for..." If you don't like the word "own", "holds" is always a good alternative.

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