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

However, a House vote earlier this week paved the way for lawmakers to attempt enforcing their subpoenas in court, and more legal fights could be ahead. Chris Megerian, latimes.com, "House Intelligence Committee subpoenas Michael Flynn and Richard Gates," 13 June 2019 The planned committee vote comes a day after the House approved a resolution to authorize the House Judiciary Committee and other panels to go to court to enforce their subpoenas of the Trump administration. NBC News, "Trump asserts executive privilege over census citizenship question info as Dems prepare contempt vote," 12 June 2019 Wednesday’s move could lay the groundwork for the panel to swiftly go to court to seek to enforce its subpoenas, after the House moved on Tuesday to empower committees to do so without a vote of the full chamber. New York Times, "Census Fight Grows as House Panel Backs Contempt and Trump Asserts Privilege," 12 June 2019 Today’s contempt vote comes alongside a number of court actions Democrats have already taken against the administration to enforce their subpoenas, with some success. Ella Nilsen, Vox, "The House just voted to hold AG William Barr in contempt of Congress," 11 June 2019 But McGahn defied his subpoena for documents and testimony because the White House argued that top presidential advisers can't be compelled to testify. Bart Jansen, USA TODAY, "House plans vote authorizing wide-ranging lawsuits to gather evidence about President Trump," 11 June 2019 The deal comes after the committee issued a subpoena in April; alas, his upcoming testimony will take place behind closed doors. Lynn Yaeger, Vogue, "The Week in Washington: “Madame Speaker, Did You Bring Your Handcuffs?”," 19 May 2019 But Miller challenged his grand jury subpoena, arguing that Mueller’s appointment was unconstitutional. Chad Day, The Seattle Times, "Trump confidant Roger Stone seeks full Mueller report," 13 Apr. 2019 In some of these cases, activists made their unwillingness to testify known, and the government dropped their subpoenas. 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

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Weeks after the documentaries aired, a federal judge ruled that attorneys can subpoena Jenner's company and agencies for models who promoted Fyre, CNN reported. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "Kendall Jenner Responds to Her Fyre Festival Involvement for the First Time," 3 Apr. 2019 On Monday, the New York state Department of Financial Services subpoenaed insurance brokerage Aon PLC for the information, the person said. Corinne Ramey, WSJ, "Insurance Broker for Trump Businesses Subpoenaed," 5 Mar. 2019 Additionally, there was a different witness subpoenaed by Mueller’s grand jury who has sued the government — Roger Stone associate Andrew Miller. Andrew Prokop, Vox, "The mysterious grand jury appeal that may be tied to the Mueller investigation, explained," 19 Dec. 2018 The firms subpoenaed by New York also reportedly included contractors and subcontractors who participated in lobbying efforts to sway the net neutrality decision. Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica, "Report: FBI opens criminal investigation into net neutrality comment fraud," 10 Dec. 2018 On March 14, 2018, pursuant to subpoena, the Committee took testimony from Michael Hafner, a former campaign worker for Greitens. kansascity, "Read 2nd report from Missouri House committee investigating Greitens | The Kansas City Star," 24 Apr. 2018 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

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

18 Jun 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

incapable of being surmounted or overcome

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Finance Words Quiz

  • a-piggy-bank
  • The etymology of mortgage is related most closely to which two words?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

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!