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

On top of that, there were multiple witnesses at the party on Sunday night who saw the whole interaction go down. Carolyn Twersky, Seventeen, "Tristan Thompson and Jordyn Woods' Cheating Scandal and Everything That Went Down," 22 Feb. 2019 Well, multiple witnesses come over and over kept popping up. Fox News, "McConnell on marshalling the votes to confirm Kavanaugh," 7 Oct. 2018 Details are unclear, however, because police encountered language barriers with witnesses. Katie Bernard, kansascity, "Teen who drowned in Hillsdale Lake was Burmese refugee who was providing for family," 11 July 2018 Donham, then 21 and known as Carolyn Bryant, testified in 1955 as a prospective defense witness in the trial of Bryant and Milam. CBS News, "Author of Emmett Till book gave FBI interview recordings," 13 July 2018 For its part, Harvard called on economist David Card as an expert witness. Chloe Foussianes, Town & Country, "A Timeline of the Harvard Affirmative Action Lawsuit," 2 Nov. 2018 Mark Judge – Kavanaugh’s friend Ford pegged Mark Judge, a friend of Kavanaugh’s, as a witness to the alleged assault. Kaitlyn Schallhorn, Fox News, "Kavanaugh and Ford to testify in Senate hearing: Key players to watch," 28 Sep. 2018 Unlike some other countries in Asia, Vietnam is notably accepting—even encouraging—of its 53 minority groups, as witness by Hanoi's Museum of Ethnology. Hanya Yanagihara, Condé Nast Traveler, "50 Things to Do in Asia Before You Die," 24 Sep. 2018 Cardi posted a picture on Instagram revealing their impromptu ceremony that took place in their bedroom, with her cousin as the only witness. Isabel Greenberg, Harper's BAZAAR, "Cardi B Wore a Tracksuit at Her Wedding and We Couldn't Love It More," 21 Sep. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Fixer Upper fans have witnessed it more than once: As Joanna Gaines thoughtfully discusses a home, Chip cracks a joke that sends her into giggles. Taysha Murtaugh, Country Living, "Chip Gaines Reveals How Joanna Keeps Him in Line When He’s 'Off the Tracks'," 5 Jan. 2019 Our initial inspiration to create the piece was through witnessing its use in recent months as a powerful protest image. Kathleen Joyce, Fox News, "Sexy 'maiden costume' yanked from website after backlash from 'Handmaid's Tale' fans," 21 Sep. 2018 Any shortfall in supply will result in a super-spike in prices, potentially much larger than the $150 a barrel spike witnessed in 2008. Fortune, "There Are Fears About an Oil Spike Above $150," 6 July 2018 What may start as a difference of opinion eventually becomes a direct assault on the humanity of those in the media — something that those following press freedom issues have witnessed in other parts of the world. Eugene Scott, Washington Post, "The Capital Gazette shooting and what’s wrong with the current public discourse about the media," 29 June 2018 This weekend, Fortnite players will get to witness a one-time event in the game. T.c. Sottek, The Verge, "After 16 years of war, Battlefield V is a turning point," 29 June 2018 In the back, at rectangular tables, adults gathered to witness an uplifting moment in a system that has been criticized for its abuses. Joy Resmovits, latimes.com, "What prom looks like in juvenile detention: contraband hairpins have to be returned at the end of the night," 21 June 2018 Flake praised his honesty and transparency, as witnessed in the recent documentary. Melissa Daniels, chicagotribune.com, "Arizona Republicans brush off talk about filling John McCain's Senate seat," 16 June 2018 Most of them remained standing as Arizona’s Patrick Corbin went to work against one of the most feared hitters ever witnessed in the pitching fraternity. Bruce Jenkins, SFChronicle.com, "Giants: No complaints about Madison Bumgarner’s sharp comeback," 5 June 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

14 Mar 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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