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


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


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 Kenosha saw a series of protests, including one in which a witness observed two white men pulling firearms on demonstrators amid reports of other violence. jsonline.com, "See the more than 45 communities in Wisconsin that have had protests against police brutality and racial inequality," 27 June 2020 Deputies from the constable’s office found the dog after receiving a phone call from a concerned witness, said Fort Bend County Precinct 3 Constable Wayne Thompson. Claire Goodman, Houston Chronicle, "Owner charged with animal cruelty after dog found with embedded chain in neck," 26 June 2020 The officer arrived at the scene and found the car and the suspect who fit the witness’ description. cleveland, "Thief has surf and turf on his menu: Middleburg Heights Police Blotter," 26 June 2020 Stone posted an image of Berman with crosshairs over her face on Instagram during the trial and threatened a witness and his dog. Tim Elfrink, Washington Post, "Citing pandemic, prosecutors back a 60-day delay for Roger Stone to report to prison," 26 June 2020 The secretary of state said absentee ballot witness requirements will be waived for the August primary; two judges recently ruled differently on the issue. Rachel Glickhouse, ProPublica, "Electionland 2020: Kentucky and New York Vote, Trump on Mail Voting, COVID Impacts and more," 26 June 2020 Stone was convicted in November of tampering with a witness and lying to Congress. Haley Victory Smith, Washington Examiner, "Roger Stone given extra two weeks to report to prison as judge sets July 14 surrender date," 26 June 2020 Another witness who knew Fluker identified her as being in the park arguing with White that night, testimony showed. Carol Robinson | Crobinson@al.com, al, "Testimony: Enraged detective-girlfriend fired 15 shots into her partner’s car, killing woman inside," 25 June 2020 The Panthers and other neighborhood activists turned to supporting Williams, holding rallies and putting out flyers highlighting witness accounts that contradicted the police’s official version of events. oregonlive, "Long before ‘Defund Police’ movement, Portland’s Black Panthers sought ‘community control’ of police, pursued radical ballot initiative," 25 June 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb By June, once the monsoon kicks in, much of the area can witness a foot of rainfall — or more — per month. Joanna Slater, Washington Post, "Lightning strikes kill more than 100 in India," 26 June 2020 Especially to those who usually pack the Mobile Civic Center Theater each June to witness 50 of the country’s most stellar young women compete for tens of thousands of dollars in scholarship money. Michael Dumas, al, "Distinguished Young Women promises another spectacular show," 26 June 2020 His family could witness the fruits of transformation first-hand. Doug Lesmerises, cleveland, "Ohio State football parents got the gift of time they never wanted, but cherished," 25 June 2020 A day later, the city's Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia announced the capital was expected to witness more than half a million Covid-19 cases by the end of July. Vedika Sud, CNN, "As Delhi becomes India's coronavirus capital, its hospitals are struggling to cope," 25 June 2020 The unique story of former Giants catcher Jack Hiatt was in uniform to witness four players hit their 500th home run — four of the first nine in history, in fact. John Shea, SFChronicle.com, "Giants Splash: 60-game season? SF needs to think playoffs," 24 June 2020 Several staff members at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center and passersby were disturbed to witness hospital security officers holding a Black woman in handcuffs outside the hospital entrance last week for nearly an hour. oregonlive, "Legacy Health suspends practice of handcuffing, arresting non-violent patients for trespass after complaints about Black woman detained," 23 June 2020 So it's been hard, and it's been incredibly transformational, and it's been such a powerful, powerful thing to witness. TheWeek, "Black Lives Matter organizers discuss the local and global aspects of the movement," 20 June 2020 Other regions, from southeastern Europe to northern Australia, will witness less coverage of the sun by the moon. Candice Wang, Popular Science, "You may be able to spot a ‘ring of fire’ eclipse this weekend," 19 June 2020

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


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


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

History and Etymology for witness


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

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Time Traveler for witness

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for witness

Last Updated

1 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Witness.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/witness. Accessed 11 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for witness


How to pronounce witness (audio)

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



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


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.


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.



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

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



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


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

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