subpoena

1 of 2

noun

sub·​poe·​na sə-ˈpē-nə How to pronounce subpoena (audio)
nonstandard
-nē How to pronounce subpoena (audio)
: a writ commanding a person designated in it to appear in court under a penalty for failure

subpoena

2 of 2

verb

subpoenaed; subpoenaing

transitive verb

: to serve or summon with a writ of subpoena

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The Origin of Subpoena

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.
Recent Examples on the Web
Noun
He was sentenced to four months for contempt of Congress for defying subpoenas from the House committee that investigated the Capitol attack of Jan. 6, 2021. David Jackson, USA TODAY, 13 July 2024 Republicans, incensed by Hur's decision, issued a subpoena for audio of his interviews with Biden during the spring. Compiled By Democrat-Gazette Staff From Wire Reports, arkansasonline.com, 12 July 2024
Verb
The House Oversight Committee on Wednesday subpoenaed three White House aides who had been previously shielded from testifying about Biden's handling of classified documents. Compiled By Democrat-Gazette Staff From Wire Reports, arkansasonline.com, 12 July 2024 Now she was being subpoenaed to testify at one person’s trial. Lauren Smiley, WIRED, 10 July 2024 See all Example Sentences for subpoena 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'subpoena.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Noun

Middle English suppena, from Latin sub poena under penalty

First Known Use

Noun

15th century, in the meaning defined above

Verb

1640, in the meaning defined above

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

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Dictionary Entries Near subpoena

Cite this Entry

“Subpoena.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/subpoena. Accessed 23 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition

subpoena

1 of 2 noun
sub·​poe·​na sə-ˈpē-nə How to pronounce subpoena (audio)
: an order in writing commanding a person named in it to appear in court under a penalty for failure to appear

subpoena

2 of 2 verb
subpoenaed; subpoenaing
: to serve or summon with a subpoena
Etymology

Noun

from the Latin phrase sub poena "under penalty"; used as the beginning words of the order

Legal Definition

subpoena

1 of 2 noun
sub·​poe·​na
variants also subpena
sə-ˈpē-nə
: 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

2 of 2 transitive verb
variants also subpena
subpoenaed; subpoenaing
: 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
Etymology

Noun

Latin sub poena under penalty

More from Merriam-Webster on subpoena

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