subpoena

noun
sub·​poe·​na | \sə-ˈpē-nə, nonstandard -nē \

Definition of subpoena 

(Entry 1 of 2)

: a writ commanding a person designated in it to appear in court under a penalty for failure

subpoena

verb
subpoenaed; subpoenaing

Definition of subpoena (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: to serve or summon with a writ of subpoena

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Synonyms for subpoena

Synonyms: Noun

process, summons

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The Origin of Subpoena

Noun

If you think you recognize the sub- in subpoena as the prefix meaning "under, beneath, below," you're on target. Subpoena arrived in Modern English (via the Middle English suppena) from the Latin sub poena, a combination of sub and poena, meaning "penalty." Other poena descendants in English include impunity ("freedom from penalty"), penal ("of or relating to punishment"), and even punish. There is also the verb subpoena, as in "Defense lawyers have subpoenaed several witnesses to the crime."

Examples of subpoena in a Sentence

Noun

received a subpoena to appear as a witness for the prosecution

Verb

He was subpoenaed to testify in a hearing. The prosecutor subpoenaed the defendant's financial records.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

China banned coin offerings last year, and the Securities and Exchange Commission in the United States has done a broad sweep of the industry, sending out dozens of subpoenas. New York Times, "In the World of Cryptocurrency, Even Good Projects Can Go Bad," 31 May 2018 In February, Lyft eventually complied with that subpoena, but Uber is fighting it. Carolyn Said, San Francisco Chronicle, "San Francisco to Uber, Lyft: Tell us what drivers earn," 29 May 2018 Prosecutors in the office of the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., conducted dozens of interviews in New York and elsewhere and issued hundreds of subpoenas, and their inquiry is not over. Author: Benjamin Mueller, Alan Feuer, Anchorage Daily News, "Charged with rape, Weinstein posts $1 million bail and surrenders passport," 25 May 2018 The request for the latest documents are the latest in a series of subpoenas to the Justice Department for sensitive information. Jeremy Herb, Manu Raju And Laura Jarrett, CNN, "White House lawyer attends Justice Department briefings with lawmakers on confidential source," 24 May 2018 Zuckerberg, who is on Capitol Hill this week testifying about the data sharing scandal involving data firm Cambridge Analytica, was uncertain about the existence of subpoenas from Mueller's office. Kathryn Watson, CBS News, "Facebook working with special counsel Robert Mueller, Mark Zuckerberg says," 10 Apr. 2018 However, a congressional told Fox News earlier Tuesday that Page was expected to comply with the subpoena and the claim of lack of preparation would not be an adequate excuse to avoid an appearance. Samuel Chamberlain, Fox News, "Lisa Page will not appear for Capitol Hill interview despite subpoena, attorney says," 10 July 2018 Goodlatte notified his Democratic counterpart New York Rep. Jerry Nadler of his plan to subpoena Strzok on Friday morning, which sets off a two-day waiting period before the subpoena can be issued under the committee's rules. Jeremy Herb, CNN, "House GOP lawmaker plans to subpoena FBI agent to testify," 15 June 2018 With Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused from the Russia probe, the subpoena for the Justice Department sets up a confrontation with Rosenstein. Margaret Hartmann, Daily Intelligencer, "House Republicans Lay the Groundwork for Trump to Fire Rosenstein," 19 Apr. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Maryland could be that college, which is a key reason why the school has been subpoenaed. Michael Mccann, SI.com, "Why Maryland Receiving FBI Subpoenas Should Worry Other College Programs, Basketball Players," 7 July 2018 If the President refuses an interview with Mueller's office, prosecutors could then use a grand jury to subpoena him to testify under oath. Gloria Borger, CNN, "President Trump's legal team plots next move following the North Korea summit," 13 June 2018 If Trump declines an interview and Mueller subpoenas him, both sides face major risks in the Supreme Court battle that could be likely to ensue. Anchorage Daily News, "Despite Trump’s public bravado, his legal team readies for a showdown with Mueller," 5 June 2018 Another senior member of President Trump's legal team is stepping down, the latest high-level turmoil as the White House grapples with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's efforts to interview the president — and to subpoena him if necessary. Chris Megerian, latimes.com, "Latest shake-up of Trump's legal team signals a more combative approach," 2 May 2018 Clinton was subpoenaed in 1998 during the independent counsel's Whitewater investigation, though the subpoena was later withdrawn when Clinton agreed to voluntarily testify before the grand jury. Mary Clare Jalonick, The Christian Science Monitor, "Democrats raise questions about Kavanaugh's views on executive power," 12 July 2018 Clinton was subpoenaed in 1998 during the independent counsel's Whitewater investigation, though the subpoena was later withdrawn when Clinton agreed to voluntarily testify before the grand jury. NBC News, "Would Kavanaugh protect Trump from Mueller investigation?," 11 July 2018 Clinton was subpoenaed in 1998 during the independent counsel’s Whitewater investigation, though the subpoena was later withdrawn when Clinton agreed to voluntarily testify before the grand jury. Mary Clare Jalonick, The Seattle Times, "Kavanaugh’s views on presidential powers could be flashpoint," 10 July 2018 Later that day, that reporter published a story disclosing that Page had been subpoenaed to testify before the committee. Author: Shane Harris, Ellen Nakashima, Anchorage Daily News, "Ex-Senate staffer faces charges in leak investigation," 8 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'subpoena.' 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 subpoena

Noun

15th century, in the meaning defined above

Verb

1640, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for subpoena

Noun

Middle English suppena, from Latin sub poena under penalty

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Last Updated

5 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for subpoena

The first known use of subpoena was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for subpoena

subpoena

noun

English Language Learners Definition of subpoena

 (Entry 1 of 2)

law : a written order that commands someone to appear in court to give evidence

subpoena

verb

English Language Learners Definition of subpoena (Entry 2 of 2)

law : to order someone to appear in court to give evidence : to issue a subpoena to (someone) or for (something)

subpoena

noun
sub·​poe·​na
variants: also subpena \ sə-​ˈpē-​nə \

Legal Definition of subpoena 

(Entry 1 of 2)

: a writ commanding a designated person upon whom it has been served to appear (as in court or before a congressional committee) under a penalty (as a charge of contempt) for failure to comply — compare summons

subpoena

transitive verb
variants: also subpena
subpoenaed; subpoenaing

Legal Definition of subpoena (Entry 2 of 2)

: to call before a court or hearing by a subpoena the inspector is given the power to subpoena any relevant…witnessesHarvard Law Review also : to command the production of (evidence) by a subpoena duces tecum subpoenaed documents

History and Etymology for subpoena

Noun

Latin sub poena under penalty

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