re·​cog·​ni·​zance | \ ri-ˈkäg-nə-zən(t)s How to pronounce recognizance (audio) , -ˈkä-nə- \

Definition of recognizance

1a : an obligation of record entered into before a court or magistrate requiring the performance of an act (such as appearance in court) usually under penalty of a money forfeiture released on his own recognizance
b : the sum liable to forfeiture upon such an obligation
2 archaic : token, pledge

Examples of recognizance in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web He was released from custody on his own recognizance but will be subject to supervision restrictions. Amaris Encinas, The Arizona Republic, 22 Jan. 2022 The Manhattan District Attorney’s office said that Likerman and Digesaro were arraigned in criminal court and released on their own recognizance. Marlene Lenthang, NBC News, 21 Jan. 2022 The report cited one academic study in which defendants with counsel at bail hearings were more likely to be released on their own recognizance, more likely to have their bail reduced and more likely to be reduced within a day of their arrest. Tami Abdollah, USA TODAY, 20 Jan. 2022 Court records show Shaw had been free on his own recognizance while awaiting trial in Baltimore County following a March 2020 arrest for being a felon in possession of a firearm. Jessica Anderson,, 11 Jan. 2022 For anything else, most arrestees will likely be released, many on their own recognizance. Charles Fain Lehman, WSJ, 6 Jan. 2022 Girgis pleaded not guilty on Thursday before a federal magistrate in Manhattan and was released on his own recognizance. Washington Post, 6 Jan. 2022 The two were released on their own recognizance ahead of a Monday arraignment hearing in Caldwell District Court, according to online court records. Billy Kobin, The Courier-Journal, 17 Dec. 2021 Seto was released on his own recognizance to await trial at home. Cameron Knight, The Enquirer, 23 Dec. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'recognizance.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of recognizance

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for recognizance

Middle English recognissance, alteration of reconissaunce, from Anglo-French, from reconoistre to recognize

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Time Traveler for recognizance

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The first known use of recognizance was in the 14th century

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Last Updated

26 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Recognizance.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Jan. 2022.

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More Definitions for recognizance



English Language Learners Definition of recognizance

: a legal promise made by someone before a court of law that must be kept to avoid being punished


re·​cog·​ni·​zance | \ ri-ˈkäg-nə-zəns How to pronounce recognizance (audio) \

Legal Definition of recognizance

1 : an obligation entered into on the record before a court or magistrate requiring the performance of an act (as the paying of a debt) usually under penalty of a money forfeiture also : the sum liable to forfeiture
2 : a simple personal obligation or undertaking (as to appear in court) entered into before a magistrate and having no money penalty attached released on his own recognizance

History and Etymology for recognizance

Anglo-French recognisance reconisance, literally, recognition, from Old French reconoisance, from reconoistre to recognize, from Latin recognoscere


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