subpoena

noun
sub·​poe·​na | \ sə-ˈpē-nə How to pronounce subpoena (audio) , nonstandard -nē How to pronounce subpoena (audio) \

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

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for subpoena

Synonyms: Noun

process, summons

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

They were not warned before Steny Hoyer announced on Wednesday that the committee will not have subpoena power. David Roberts, Vox, "The Green New Deal, explained," 21 Dec. 2018 Now, for now, kicking it over to the inspector general, which again, has no subpoena power. Fox News, "What role has Rosenstein played in decision to declassify?," 21 Sep. 2018 The commission, led by Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, has subpoena power and its own team of investigators. David Fleshler, Sun-Sentinel.com, "Stoneman Douglas shooting commission meets this week in Sunrise," 9 July 2018 Governments can conduct formal investigations and use law enforcement tools such as subpoena power to obtain the facts that will help them negotiate a settlement on your behalf. Kevin Brasler, Philly.com, "Have a consumer problem? How to complain and get results," 1 July 2018 The inspector general investigates cases involving waste, abuse, fraud or corruption and is an independent agency with subpoena powers. Katrease Stafford, Detroit Free Press, "Text messages reveal illegal dumping by Detroit demo contractor," 26 June 2018 Hawley has also cited a lack of subpoena power in Sunshine Law cases as a major detriment to his ability to look into the matter. Jason Hancock, kansascity, "Lawyer says screenshot proves Greitens’ staff used Confide for public business," 19 June 2018 These commissions would lack investigatory and subpoena powers, and would play no role in the appointment of the police superintendent. Maya Dukmasova, Chicago Reader, "News / News Bites In debate over civilian oversight of Chicago police, grassroots proposals win the day," 6 June 2018 Gonzalez did not respond when asked if Gowdy would support using his subpoena power. Author: Lisa Friedman, Eric Lipton, Anchorage Daily News, "EPA aide sought a new apartment for Pruitt, as well as an ‘old mattress’ from Trump hotel," 4 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

That’s one question that accompanied Thursday’s supposedly big news that the Senate Intelligence Committee had subpoenaed former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen to testify in February. Kimberley A. Strassel, WSJ, "Mark Warner’s Enablers," 24 Jan. 2019 Interior’s inspector general has subpoenaed documents from MGM, according to two individuals briefed on the inquiry who spoke on the condition of anonymity on the grounds that the probe is still underway. Josh Dawsey, The Seattle Times, "Zinke’s own agency watchdog just referred him to the Justice Department," 30 Oct. 2018 Oh, also: the SEC has subpoenaed both Silver Lake and Goldman Sachs for materials on their Tesla encounter, since the two were involved in Musk’s abortive effort, according to The New York Times. Elizabeth Lopatto, The Verge, "SpaceX gets into space tourism while the Department of Justice gets into Tesla," 21 Sep. 2018 Prosecutors have subpoenaed records related to several county contracts and two administrators in the county's IT Department. Adam Ferrise, cleveland.com, "Teen girl fights off kidnapper while walking home in Linndale, police say," 8 May 2018 The arrest came after police had subpoenaed Syed’s cellphone records, and questioned two people from his call log: Jay Wilds and Jennifer Pusateri. Emma Dibdin, Harper's BAZAAR, "A Complete Timeline of The Case Against Adnan Syed," 31 Mar. 2019 Officially enshrined in the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, the secrecy provisions have been criticized for allowing the government to target activist circles by subpoenaing organizers. Lucy Diavolo, Teen Vogue, "Chelsea Manning Has Been Imprisoned for Resisting a Grand Jury Investigation. Here’s Why She Should Be Freed," 11 Mar. 2019 Tyson also wrote House Judiciary Committee Chairman Robert Goodlatte, who had subpoenaed the department for documents related to the Russia investigation and also the department's investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails in 2016. CBS News, "DOJ hands Congress classified documents on Russia probe," 23 June 2018 Clinton was the first president subpoenaed to testify in a criminal probe, before his lawyers negotiated the terms of a voluntary interview instead. Anchorage Daily News, "Despite Trump’s public bravado, his legal team readies for a showdown with Mueller," 5 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about subpoena

Listen to Our Podcast about subpoena

Statistics for subpoena

Last Updated

23 Apr 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for subpoena

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on subpoena

What made you want to look up subpoena? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

to move or proceed with twists and turns

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words from Greek and Latin Quiz

  • roman forum
  • Which of the following months comes from a Latin word for “ten”?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!