sum·​mons | \ ˈsə-mənz How to pronounce summons (audio) \
plural summonses

Definition of summons

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : the act of summoning especially : a call by authority to appear at a place named or to attend to a duty
2 : a warning or citation to appear in court: such as
a : a written notification to be served on a person as a warning to appear in court at a day specified to answer to the plaintiff
b : a subpoena to appear as a witness
3 : something (such as a call) that summons


summonsed; summonsing; summonses

Definition of summons (Entry 2 of 2)

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Synonyms for summons

Synonyms: Noun

process, subpoena

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Examples of summons in a Sentence


The judge issued a summons. He received a royal summons.

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

House Democrats have been struggling to secure public testimony from a number of Trump’s former aides and campaign officials who spoke at length to Mueller’s team, but have thus far resisted congressional summonses. The Washington Post, The Mercury News, "House intelligence panel subpoenas Flynn, Gates," 13 June 2019 The New York Police Department started issuing criminal summonses to people caught smoking marijuana in public instead of arresting them, with some exceptions. Katie Honan And Jimmy Vielkind, WSJ, "De Blasio Backs Marijuana Legalization, Calling It a Chance for Economic Advancement," 20 Dec. 2018 The court said the union raised valid concerns about officer safety and privacy, but that a broader interpretation of the law would mean things like arrest reports, summonses, and accident reports would be blocked from public view. Michael R. Sisak, The Seattle Times, "NY court: Public allowed to see police body camera footage," 19 Feb. 2019 Before the law took effect, police officers issued summonses for failing to yield. Zolan Kanno-youngs, WSJ, "MTA Bus Driver Involved in Pedestrian Death Arrested," 6 Sep. 2018 The agency said the 26-year-old was given a summons for operating without a vehicle without a license and operating and unregistered vehicle. Travis Fedschun, Fox News, "Man tried using cell phone as scooter headlight, Maine police say," 31 July 2018 The court normally mails 5,000 jury duty summonses each week. Keith L. Alexander, Washington Post, "Glitch in jury duty notification system leaves officials scrambling," 28 Jan. 2018 In that case, summonses were issued by mail because the car didn’t stop at the scene, police said. Kate King, WSJ, "Giants Rookie Lauletta Arrested for Nearly Hitting Officer With Car," 30 Oct. 2018 Marijuana has been decriminalized, yet marijuana possession and summonses still persist, and minority communities are being hit nine out of 10 times, even though usage is split almost down the middle between white and black and Latino communities. Julia Felsenthal, Vogue, "Crime + Punishment," 22 Aug. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The man — whose name has not been released — was summonsed on charges of disorderly conduct, negligent operation of a motor vehicle, failure to use care in stopping, and marked lanes violation, State Police said in a statement. Elise Takahama And Danny Mcdonald,, "Man who jumped onto school bus hood on Pike will face charges," 4 May 2018 The motor draws its energy from the lithium-ion battery tucked inconspicuously under the rear seats until the charge gets too low, then summons the four-cylinder to crank the generator. Gary Gastelu, Fox News, "The 2019 Honda Insight is a strangely normal hybrid," 24 Aug. 2018 July also summons athletes back to the gridiron and summer workouts for other fall sports. Shelby Dermer,, "Parents and athletes: How to spot and treat heat-related illnesses this summer," 3 July 2018 Defense lawyers say the real impetus for marijuana enforcement is often not an arrest or summons itself, but rather the opportunity for police officers to stop and search people and check for open warrants in other cases. Benjamin Mueller, New York Times, "New York City Will End Marijuana Arrests for Most People," 19 June 2018 While López Obrador summons the nation-building legacies of pioneering Mexican leaders like Benito Juárez and Lázaro Cárdenas, his critics cast him in line with Venezuela's late Hugo Chávez and populist strongmen further to the south. Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, "Mexico’s presidential frontrunner is promising a revolution. Can he deliver?," 29 June 2018 Rodriguez will be summonsed to court for an arraignment at Wrentham District Court. Elise Takahama,, "Easton man charged with animal cruelty after allegedly abandoning kittens," 8 June 2018 Police discovered the turkey was shot within 150 feet of a roadway, 500 feet of a dwelling, and on private property, and summonsed the shooter and the driver for multiple wildlife violations, police said., "blotter," 9 May 2018 Upon moving to a remote cottage on Ireland’s southern coast, a painter named Maggie Turner inadvertently summons the house’s malign spirits during a session at the Ouija board. Sam Sacks, WSJ, "Fiction Chronicle: Under West Indian Eyes," 18 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'summons.' 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 summons


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1683, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for summons


Middle English somouns, from Anglo-French somonse, from past participle of somondre

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Statistics for summons

Last Updated

18 Jun 2019

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Time Traveler for summons

The first known use of summons was in the 13th century

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More Definitions for summons



English Language Learners Definition of summons

 (Entry 1 of 2)

law : an official order to appear in a court of law
: an official order to appear at a particular place



English Language Learners Definition of summons (Entry 2 of 2)

law : to order (someone) to appear in a court of law


sum·​mons | \ ˈsə-mənz How to pronounce summons (audio) \
plural summonses

Kids Definition of summons

1 : the act of calling or sending for
2 : a call by authority to appear at a place named or to attend to some duty a royal summons
3 : a written order to appear in court


sum·​mons | \ ˈsə-mənz How to pronounce summons (audio) \
plural summonses\ -​mən-​zəz \

Legal Definition of summons

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a written notification that one is required to appear in court: as
a : a document in a civil suit that is issued by an authorized judicial officer (as a clerk of court) and delivered to a plaintiff or the plaintiff's attorney for service on the defendant and that notifies the defendant that he or she must appear and defend (as by filing an answer) within a specified time or a default judgment will be rendered for the plaintiff
b : a document that summons a defendant to appear before a court to answer a minor criminal charge and that is issued in lieu of a warrant for arrest by an authorized judicial officer (as a magistrate) upon request of a prosecuting attorney
c : a notification to appear for jury service
d : a notification to appear as a witness — see also john doe summons, service — compare subpoena


transitive verb
summonsed\ -​mənzd \; summonsing\ -​mən-​ziŋ \

Legal Definition of summons (Entry 2 of 2)

: summon especially : to bring into court by a summons hereby summonsed to serve as a trial juror

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Comments on summons

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