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

Keep scrolling 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

The grand jury also said the city should give the board the power to issue subpoenas and run independent investigations of citizen complaints against police. Teri Figueroa, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Grand jury: consider giving police review board more power," 21 May 2018 Monday's subpoena is the eleventh served on the county by investigators in the Prosecutor's Office this year. Peter Krouse, cleveland.com, "Potomac Coalition, cited in subpoena served on Cuyahoga County, made campaign contribution in Ohio," 15 May 2018 Trump-hating former FBI lawyer Lisa Page today did not comply with her subpoena and flat out refused to testify before a closed-door session of Congress. Fox News, "Steve Bannon on NATO: Trump is saying 'no more games'," 12 July 2018 Privacy - Terms The committee quickly dropped its subpoena after Greitens resigned. Jason Hancock, kansascity, "Email appears to show coordination by Greitens campaign, office, dark-money nonprofit," 3 July 2018 The House Judiciary and Oversight committee chairmen required a full-blown summit in April with Justice Department officials to get movement on their own subpoena. Kimberley A. Strassel, WSJ, "The Real Constitutional Crisis," 24 May 2018 The meeting could resolve a contentious fight between Nunes and House Republicans with the Justice Department over his subpoena for documents related to a confidential source that met with members of the Trump campaign. Jeremy Herb, CNN, "White House: GOP lawmakers meeting Justice officials Thursday about intelligence source documents," 22 May 2018 Zervos will now be able to enforce her subpoena for a trove of Trump campaign documents. Michael Finnegan, latimes.com, "Court allows Summer Zervos to gather sexual misconduct evidence against Trump," 18 May 2018 Their subpoenas have sought information about Sharon Sobol Jordan, Budish's former chief of staff, Scot Rourke, the county's transformation officer and information officer, and Emily McNeeley, general counsel and director of special initiatives. Robert Higgs, cleveland.com, "Cuyahoga County blocking public view of some email materials sought by corruption investigators," 5 Apr. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Specifically, he is accused of violating the ethics code for attorneys by subpoenaing a top lawyer for the university to testify about her conversations with Spanier and his aides. Craig R. Mccoy, Philly.com, "Prosecutor who pursued Penn State officials faces questions over his tactics," 8 June 2018 The University of Kansas acknowledged it has been subpoenaed in connection with the FBI's investigation into college basketball recruiting but refused to turn over the copies of documents, citing federal privacy laws. Justin Sayers, The Courier-Journal, "Report: Kansas has been subpoenaed in the FBI basketball investigation," 10 July 2018 Even if Mueller's team decided to subpoena Mr. Trump as part of the investigation, the president could still fight it in court or refuse to answer questions by invoking his Fifth Amendment protection from self-incrimination. CBS News, "No decision on a Mueller interview until after summit with North Korea, Giuliani says," 12 May 2018 Nunberg announced Monday that he'd been subpoenaed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who requested he provide email communications with a number of Trump aides dating back to November 1, 2015, and appear before a grand jury this Friday. Jack Holmes, Esquire, "There Appear to Be 4 Explanations for Sam Nunberg's Meltdown," 6 Mar. 2018 If the Justices are asked to decide whether Trump can be subpoenaed or charged with a crime in office, it’s clear where Kavanaugh is likely to stand. Brian Bennett, Time, "How Brett Kavanaugh Could Change the Supreme Court—and America," 12 July 2018 With special counsel Robert Mueller investigating whether President Donald Trump obstructed justice, questions about whether a chief executive can be subpoenaed or indicted could potentially reach the Supreme Court. NBC News, "Would Kavanaugh protect Trump from Mueller investigation?," 11 July 2018 Indivior has been subpoenaed by the California Department of Insurance over its blockbuster opioid addiction treatment, Suboxone Film, which is rapidly losing market share due to competition from generics, Reuters reports. Ed Silverman, STAT, "Pharmalittle: Antibiotic shortages putting patients at risk; EMA fears staff losses as HQ move nears," 1 June 2018 The court could be asked to rule on whether Special Counsel Robert Mueller has the right to subpoena the president to testify in the ongoing investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Erin Kelly, USA TODAY, "Democrats worry about how a new Supreme Court justice would affect Russia investigation," 10 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.

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

Noun

Latin sub poena under penalty

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about subpoena

Listen to Our Podcast about subpoena

Statistics for subpoena

Last Updated

10 Sep 2018

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

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 make amends

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Musical Words Quiz

  • gramophone
  • Which word describes a musical performance marked by the absence of instrumental accompaniment?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Syn City

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!