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

According to witnesses, another male passenger intervened, asking the man to deplane so the flight could continue to Los Angeles. Fox News, "Violent brawl delays Southwest Airlines flight after overhead bin fight," 2 Oct. 2018 After taking testimony from witnesses, detectives with the Rosemont Police Department were able to identify and arrest 33-year-old Joseph Czeck, the alleged driver of the vehicle, on Wednesday. Jessica Spitz /, NBC News, "Mother and daughter killed after boulder falls off back of truck in Minnesota," 13 July 2018 Josh Mankiewicz interviews witnesses to the murders of U.S. Congressman Leo Ryan, NBC News correspondent Don Harris, NBC News cameraman Bob Brown and San Francisco Examiner photographer Greg Robinson. Hal Boedeker, OrlandoSentinel.com, "'Jonestown: An American Tragedy,' Sacha Baron Cohen: This weekend," 13 July 2018 The arrest reports are sketchy by any measure, listing no witnesses, fingerprint evidence, confessions or even property stolen. Charles Rabin, Jay Weaver And David Ovalle, miamiherald, "The chief wanted perfect stats, so cops were told to pin crimes on blacks, probe found," 12 July 2018 Police said in a statement that while officers were taking a report from the man and witnesses, an unknown male fired several shots at them from a vacant field. Hasan Dudar, Detroit Free Press, "DPD seeking drive-by shooting suspect and another suspect who shot at officers," 9 July 2018 According to witnesses, Justin popped the question in front of EVERYONE while on vacay in the Bahamas. Kelsey Stiegman, Seventeen, "5 Signs That Prove Justin Bieber and Hailey Baldwin are Totally Getting Married," 9 July 2018 In campus Title IX proceedings, however, a different kind of mob exacts a social and professional price from witnesses who defend the accused. Jillian Kay Melchior, WSJ, "Title IX’s Witness Intimidation," 5 Feb. 2019 Chappell said police are still investigating, and received conflicting reports from witnesses, some of whom said the teen driver may have been cut off by another vehicle. David Owens, courant.com, "Teen Hurt In Crash On New Britain Avenue In West Hartford," 13 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The two women who Johnson said witnessed the encounter denied seeing any inappropriate behavior. Cady Drell, Marie Claire, "Another Woman Has Accused Donald Trump of Sexual Misconduct," 25 Feb. 2019 Even though very few people witnessed the fall of the meteorite, Fries was able to pinpoint its trajectory using weather radar. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "A Research Ship Is Hunting Meteorite Fragments Off the Coast of Washington," 4 July 2018 Part of the horror Saturday night was that so many children witnessed the bloody rampage. Maria L. La Ganga And Sven Berg, idahostatesman, "A speeding ambulance. Asking how a toddler died. 2 boys recall Boise's mass stabbing," 2 July 2018 Ashley says she was inspired to pursue that path after witnessing her sister, fellow Hallmark star Kimberly Williams's, first labor. Taysha Murtaugh, Country Living, "Hallmark Star Ashley Williams Speaks Out About Her Miscarriage," 28 Nov. 2018 Right after witnessing this, Betty collapses and starts having a seizure. Emma Dibdin, Harper's BAZAAR, "Archie's already made a terrible decision.," 11 Oct. 2018 Follis declined to speak with reporters after witnessing the punishment. Fox News, "Texas inmate executed for 2000 killing of girlfriend," 28 Sep. 2018 Such an event has never been witnessed, but future sky surveys could capture such an event in action, so the paper—which relied on computer simulations—serves as a sort of guideline to what to look for. John Wenz, Popular Mechanics, "Black Holes Reignite Dead Stars and Turn Them Into Zombies," 30 Aug. 2018 In The Hate U Give, out this October, protagonist Starr's father, Maverick (Russell Hornsby), empowers her to become a champion for Black Lives Matter after witnessing a shooting at the hands of the police. Samantha Leach, Glamour, "Now Trending: The Woke Dad in Teen Films," 29 Aug. 2018

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

11 Apr 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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