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

Clicking on each country takes you to a country specific page, complete with interactive graphs that feel just a touch too whimsical for disclosing government wiretap subpoenas. Chaim Gartenberg, The Verge, "Apple’s latest government transparency report came with a slick new website," 21 Dec. 2018 Schaaf’s spokesman, Justin Berton, said neither the mayor nor her office has received any federal subpoenas or other requests for documents or interviews. Kimberly Veklerov, SFChronicle.com, "Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf ‘preparing for the worst’ in federal investigation," 28 June 2018 Over the course of Everything’s nine songs, the duo acknowledge bumps—subpoena-brandishing investigators, streaming services who don’t share the wealth, shady friends—while remaining resilient and focused, both on each other and on their art. Maura Johnston, Time, "Beyoncé and Jay-Z Continue to Surprise on Joint Album Everything Is Love," 19 June 2018 Rumored to be 884 pages long, it is expected to make stomachs turn, the product of more than two years’ worth of top-secret subpoenas and testimony led by a team in the Attorney General’s Office. Maria Panaritis, Philly.com, "A Catholic Church child sex abuse bombshell is coming, and Pa. lawmakers had better be on the right side | Maria Panaritis," 13 June 2018 Dowd also told The Associated Press Tuesday night that Mueller raised the possibility of a subpoena during a meeting with Trump's legal team in March. John Roberts, Fox News, "Ty Cobb to leave Trump's legal team, be replaced by Clinton impeachment lawyer," 2 Oct. 2018 But the measure still includes demands contained in two subpoenas issued by the Intelligence and the Oversight and Government Reform and Judiciary committees for documents. Billy House, Bloomberg.com, "Rosenstein Faces Vote in U.S. House on GOP Demands for Documents," 26 June 2018 A year ago, the New York Attorney General’s office began its own investigation and issued subpoenas to over a dozen telecommunications lobbying groups this past October. Andrew Liptak, The Verge, "The FBI is now investigating fake anti-net neutrality comments," 8 Dec. 2018 State officials are now issuing subpoenas and gathering evidence for a public hearing to be held later this month. Dylan Scott, Vox, "What we know about the alleged election fraud plot in North Carolina," 8 Dec. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Timothy O’Brien at Bloomberg outlined the president’s long-standing relationship with the financial institution and noted the possibility that Democrats in the House will subpoena Deutsche for banking records and other information on its Trump ties. Emily Stewart, Vox, "Deutsche Bank’s German office raids (apparently) have nothing to do with Trump," 30 Nov. 2018 Federal prosecutors in Manhattan recently opened an investigation into media-buying practices in the ad business, and have subpoenaed people in the industry. Alexandra Bruell, WSJ, "DOJ Concludes Investigation of Production Practices at Largest Ad Companies," 13 Nov. 2018 There was a story out there about a woman whose pap smear was subpoenaed and actually used to solve a crime. Eric Johnson, Recode, "23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki says ‘one of our biggest competitors’ is fake science on sites like Goop," 20 Oct. 2018 Their identities could be revealed if Instagram is subpoenaed and ordered to turn over subscriber information. Sapna Maheshwari, New York Times, "Instagram Account That Sought Harassment Tales May Be Unmasked," 1 July 2018 In addition to Pastor, Stark and Williams, DiCiccio's attorney subpoenaed Bryan Jeffries — one of the Board of Adjustment members and now Williams' chief of staff — and City Manager Ed Zuercher, according to court documents. Jessica Boehm, azcentral, "Phoenix Councilman Sal DiCiccio sues the city, subpoenas fellow council members," 8 June 2018 The revelation that Robert Mueller subpoenaed a bit player in the Trump-Russia melodrama, Andrii Artemenko, to appear before a Virginia grand jury last month went largely unnoticed. Abigail Tracy, The Hive, "Was Viktor Vekselberg Bankrolling Michael Cohen’s Pro-Russia Peace Plan for Ukraine?," 8 June 2018 In an attempt to intimidate Civil Rights activists, Alabama subpoenaed the NAACP’s membership list, which the organization declined to do. Diana Budds, Curbed, "Facial recognition is becoming one of the 21st century’s biggest public space issues," 19 Oct. 2018 After being subpoenaed in July, the President made false statements to the grand jury on August 17, 1998. Aaron Blake, Washington Post, "Brett Kavanaugh, Trump and what the Starr Report says about impeachment, annotated," 11 July 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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Statistics for subpoena

Last Updated

15 Jan 2019

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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