witness

noun
wit·​ness | \ ˈwit-nəs How to pronounce witness (audio) \

Definition of witness

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : attestation of a fact or event : testimony
2 : one that gives evidence specifically : one who testifies in a cause or before a judicial tribunal
3 : one asked to be present at a transaction so as to be able to testify to its having taken place
4 : one who has personal knowledge of something
5a : something serving as evidence or proof : sign
b : public affirmation by word or example of usually religious faith or conviction the heroic witness to divine lifePilot
6 capitalized : a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses

witness

verb
witnessed; witnessing; witnesses

Definition of witness (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to testify to : attest
2 : to act as legal witness of
3 : to furnish proof of : betoken
4a : to have personal or direct cognizance of : see for oneself witnessed the historic event
b : to take note of our grammar— witness our verb system—is a marvel of flexibility, variety, and exactitude— Charlton Laird
5 : to constitute the scene or time of structures … which this striking Dorset hilltop once witnessedThe Times Literary Supplement (London)

intransitive verb

1 : to bear witness : testify
2 : to bear witness to one's religious convictions opportunity to witness for Christ— Billy Graham

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Choose the Right Synonym for witness

Verb

certify, attest, witness, vouch mean to testify to the truth or genuineness of something. certify usually applies to a written statement, especially one carrying a signature or seal. certified that the candidate had met all requirements attest applies to oral or written testimony usually from experts or witnesses. attested to the authenticity of the document witness applies to the subscribing of one's own name to a document as evidence of its genuineness. witnessed the signing of the will vouch applies to one who testifies as a competent authority or a reliable person. willing to vouch for her integrity

Examples of witness in a Sentence

Noun

The defense called its first witness to the stand. a witness for the defense His aunt and uncle were witnesses at his baptism. There must be two witnesses present when she signs the document.

Verb

Several people witnessed the accident. We are witnessing a historic moment. He witnessed the signing of her will.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Starr has to decide whether to serve as a formal witness, all while navigating her parallel lives, split between her mostly black neighborhood and her mostly white, wealthy prep school. Doria Santlofer, Glamour, "Amandla Stenberg: 'I Want to Express Myself as Authentically as I Can.'," 15 Oct. 2018 Sixty years ago this week a pilot standing next to Michigan’s Mackinac Bridge might have been witness to an amazing sight: a six engine U.S. Air Force nuclear bomber flying between the spans of the bridge, barely clearing the structure. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "Sixty Years Ago, a Pilot Flew a B-47 Nuclear Bomber Under Michigan's Mackinac Bridge," 30 Apr. 2019 Bradley Cooper’s girlfriend, Irina Shayk, was the witness! Megan Stein, Country Living, "John Legend and Chrissy Teigen's Love Story Will Make You Ugly Cry," 6 Mar. 2019 Kavanaugh’s friend Mark Judge, a conservative writer who has written controversial things about women, and is an alleged witness to the incident, has declined to testify. Recode Staff, Recode, "Recode Daily: How two direct-to-consumer startups iterated their way to success," 19 Sep. 2018 At least be a witness to what people are going through. Mattie Kahn, Glamour, "Let the Poet Warsan Shire Tell You About the "Bravest Girl in the World"," 8 Mar. 2019 Despite being at a barbecue surrounded by dozens of witnesses at the time of the murder, McMillian was convicted in a trial that lasted a day and a half and spent six years on death row. Borys Kit, The Hollywood Reporter, "Jamie Foxx in Talks to Join Michael B. Jordan in Legal Drama 'Just Mercy'," 13 July 2018 One of the individuals, Hee-Soo Kim, was additionally charged with witness tampering, according to the Justice Department. Brent Kendall, WSJ, "Two More South Korean Firms Plead Guilty to Fixing Fuel Prices for U.S. Military Bases," 20 Mar. 2019 The reason is that witness tampering can lead to impeachment. Sean Illing, Vox, "Did Trump commit witness tampering by tweet? I asked 9 legal experts.," 3 Dec. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

In the 911 call recording, the man said the children did not witness the shooting. Katy Moeller, idahostatesman, "A dispatcher asked man accused of killing wife why he did it. ‘We’re literally flat broke,’ he said," 4 June 2019 The Almanac continues by outlining the two types of Blue Moons Earth dwellers can witness. Taylor Mead, House Beautiful, "A Full Flower Blue Moon Is Happening This Month—Here’s Everything You Need to Know," 13 May 2019 Most Americans weren’t born by 1969, when those two opening incidents were personally witnessed. SFChronicle.com, "A long tradition: Americans behaving badly," 5 July 2018 An aide to Assange who had witnessed the raid was calling to inform Hrafnsson. Joshua Goodman, The Seattle Times, "After 7 long years, Assange’s capture happened quickly," 16 Apr. 2019 The atrocities witnessed by surviving Tutsis have left enduring marks on their adult children, the vast majority of whom hadn’t been born when the genocide took place in 1994. Susan Pinker, WSJ, "Inheriting the Trauma of Genocide," 21 Feb. 2019 On just the first day alone, festival-goers got to witness surprise appearances from Cardi B, Selena Gomez, and Jordyn Woods, not to mention crowd-pleasing performances from Kacey Musgraves, Janelle Monáe, and Rosalía — just to name a few. De Elizabeth, Teen Vogue, "Best Celebrity Looks From Coachella 2019 Weekend 1," 13 Apr. 2019 The resilience of these women is so profound and truly inspiring to witness. Kayleigh Roberts, Marie Claire, "Katie Holmes Shares Photos of Her and Suri Cruise Volunteering at a Syrian Refugee Camp in Greece," 23 Mar. 2019 This weekend dozens of stars braved New York's winter temperatures to witness the unveiling of a $25 billon neighborhood. House Beautiful, "Everything You Need to Know About Hudson Yards, New York's $25 Billion Neighborhood," 19 Mar. 2019

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

Noun

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb

14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for witness

Noun

Middle English witnesse, from Old English witnes knowledge, testimony, witness, from wit entry 1

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Statistics for witness

Last Updated

6 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for witness

The first known use of witness was before the 12th century

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More Definitions for witness

witness

noun

English Language Learners Definition of witness

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a person who sees something (such as a crime) happen
law : a person who makes a statement in a court about what he or she knows or has seen
: a person who is present at an event (such as a wedding) and can say that it happened

witness

verb

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

: to see (something) happen
law : to be present at (an event) in order to be able to say that it happened : to act as a legal witness of (something)
: to be the time or place when (something) happens

witness

noun
wit·​ness | \ ˈwit-nəs How to pronounce witness (audio) \

Kids Definition of witness

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a person who sees or otherwise has personal knowledge of something witnesses of an accident
2 : a person who gives testimony in court
3 : a person who is present at an action (as the signing of a will) so as to be able to say who did it
4 : testimony He gave false witness in court.

witness

verb
witnessed; witnessing

Kids Definition of witness (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to see or gain personal knowledge of something
2 : to act as a witness to I witnessed the signing of the will.
3 : to be or give proof of Their actions witness their guilt.

witness

noun
wit·​ness

Legal Definition of witness

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1a : attestation of a fact or event in witness whereof the parties have executed this release
b : evidence (as of the authenticity of a conveyance by deed) furnished by signature, oath, or seal
2 : one who gives evidence regarding matters of fact under inquiry specifically : one who testifies or is legally qualified to testify in a case or to give evidence before a judicial tribunal or similar inquiry a witness before a congressional committee no person…shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself U.S. Constitution amend. V — compare affiant, deponent
adverse witness
: a witness who is called by or associated with an opposing party or who by statement, conduct, or other evidence (as of relationship) shows bias against or is injurious to the case of the party by whom the witness is called sought to have his witness declared an adverse witness subject to impeachment

called also hostile witness

— see also leading question at question sense 1
alibi witness
: a witness upon whom a criminal defendant relies in establishing an alibi
character witness
: a witness who testifies as to the character or reputation especially of a criminal defendant : a witness who gives character evidence
expert witness
: a witness (as a medical specialist) who by virtue of special knowledge, skill, training, or experience is qualified to provide testimony to aid the factfinder in matters that exceed the common knowledge of ordinary people
hostile witness
: adverse witness in this entry
lay witness
: a witness who is not an expert witness
material witness
: a witness whose testimony is necessary for trial and whose presence may sometimes be secured by the state by subpoena, custody, or recognizance
prosecuting witness
: a witness (as the victim of a crime) whose own allegations initiate the prosecution of the defendant
qualified witness
: a witness who has sufficient understanding of a record-keeping system to provide testimony that forms the proper foundation for admission of evidence under the business records exception to the hearsay rule
rebuttal witness
: a witness called upon to rebut evidence already presented
3 : one who is called on to be present at a transaction so as to be able to testify to its occurrence specifically : one who sees the execution of an instrument and signs it to confirm its authenticity a witness to a will
4 : eyewitness a witness to an assault
bear witness
: to furnish or constitute proof or evidence

witness

transitive verb

Legal Definition of witness (Entry 2 of 3)

1 : to furnish evidence or proof of
2 : to act as witness of: as
a : to see the execution of (an instrument) and sign for the purpose of establishing authenticity witness a will
b : to be formally present as a witness of (as a transaction or the execution of a convict)
3a : to see or experience directly
b : to take note of

intransitive verb

: to bear witness : give evidence

witness

adjective

Legal Definition of witness (Entry 3 of 3)

: being an object or location used to ascertain a precise boundary point especially on a corner of a tract when marking that point itself is impracticable or impossible a witness tree a witness corner

History and Etymology for witness

Noun

Old English witnes knowledge, testimony, witness, from wit mind, sense, knowledge

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