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

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Synonyms for subpoena

Synonyms: Noun

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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 Kansas, Oklahoma State, USC and TCU have since been notified of their alleged infractions, but cases have been piling up like so much plaque on an enforcement staff that lacks the teeth to issue subpoenas or compel testimony. Tim Sullivan, The Courier-Journal, "Nike isn’t on trial, but the other shoe has dropped as NCAA investigations pile up," 4 Feb. 2020 Last week, the Senate voted 51-49 against issuing subpoenas for additional witnesses and documents, which would have delayed the trial's conclusion. William Cummings, USA TODAY, "Closing arguments to begin in the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump – live updates," 3 Feb. 2020 In the more than 200 years between 1789 and 2017, when Trump took office, courts heard only five cases for presidential claims of executive privilege in response to a congressional subpoena. Barbara L. Mcquade, The Conversation, "After the trial’s over, President Trump’s impeachment battles could determine who holds real power in the US government," 27 Jan. 2020 In December 2015, Quigley agreed to issue grand-jury subpoenas for the Eritrean, who was said to have lodged the hijackers in Los Angeles, and the Algerian former employee of the Saudi Consulate there. Tim Golden, ProPublica, "Operation Encore and the Saudi Connection: A Secret History of the 9/11 Investigation," 23 Jan. 2020 Parnas’ assertions nevertheless return a bit of the Ukraine spotlight to Perry, who refused to comply with a congressional subpoena for documents and declined to testify under oath. Tom Benning, Dallas News, "Rick Perry knew about Biden connection to Ukraine investigation, indicted Giuliani associate says," 17 Jan. 2020 No doubt the Supreme Court’s creation of the doctrine of executive privilege affords a president some latitude in challenging congressional subpoenas directed at his personal communications with his senior advisers. Noah Feldman, The New York Review of Books, "Is Trump Above the Law?," 19 Dec. 2019 His narrow victory in the September primary also prompted complaints to the State Elections Enforcement Commission, which opened an investigation and issued subpoenas regarding allegations of absentee ballot irregularities in the race. Edmund H. Mahony, courant.com, "On eve of Tuesday’s election, Connecticut Supreme Court will hear appeal of Joe Ganim primary win in Bridgeport mayoral race," 2 Nov. 2019 According to the rules for hearings, Republicans could only issue subpoenas for witnesses to appear if the entire panel approved them — in effect giving Democrats veto power. Matthew Daly, Fortune, "House Approves Rules for Trump Impeachment Probe," 31 Oct. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Closed-door hearings and subpoenaed documents related to the president’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky followed. Peggy Mcglone, Washington Post, "The Smithsonian is already hunting for impeachment artifacts. Senators, please hand over your fidget spinners.," 31 Jan. 2020 The US Supreme Court will consider that case in March, along with a batch of others about whether his bankers and accountants must turn over his records to Congress, a year after several congressional committees subpoenaed the documents. Andrea Bernstein, The New York Review of Books, "Corruption with No Consequences, from Bridgegate to Impeachment," 31 Jan. 2020 Over and over, Republicans turned back Democratic amendments to subpoena documents from the White House, State Department, Defense Department and budget office. Lisa Mascaro, Fortune, "Senate approves impeachment trial rules, but puts off witnesses," 22 Jan. 2020 Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, introduced several amendments to subpoena documents and require witness testimony. Susan Ferrechio, Washington Examiner, "Senate sets impeachment trial rules that postpone vote on witnesses," 22 Jan. 2020 First amendment: to subpoena White House documents, specifically communications involving officials within the West Wing and the National Security Council who have direct knowledge of the Ukraine matter. WSJ, "Trump's Impeachment Trial—Live Analysis," 22 Jan. 2020 Senate Republicans rejected motions to subpoena Duffey and OMB documents in the impeachment trial on Tuesday, and the emails released Tuesday night are heavily redacted. TheWeek, "White House budget office releases heavily redacted Ukraine emails as Senate rejects OMB subpoenas," 22 Jan. 2020 Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has publicly rejected a demand from Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to subpoena additional documents and witnesses, claiming these fact-finding efforts were the House's job. Fox News, "Jesse Watters: Pelosi looks 'weak,' 'scared,' 'tired' by withholding impeachment articles from Senate," 27 Dec. 2019 Our chamber must be able to call all necessary witnesses and subpoena all necessary documents to get the fullest possible picture of the events for which Donald Trump has been impeached. oregonlive, "Trump impeachment: Oregon’s Congressional leaders lend eight ‘yes’ votes," 19 Dec. 2019

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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Time Traveler for subpoena

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for subpoena

Last Updated

12 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Subpoena.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/subpoena?pronunciation&lang=en_us&dir=s&file=subpoe01. Accessed 23 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for subpoena

subpoena

noun
How to pronounce subpoena (audio) How to pronounce subpoena (audio)

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
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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