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

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. See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The witness immediately told her supervisors, setting off a chain of alerts to Chicago police and FBI Joint Counterterrorism Task Force. Rosemary Sobol, Chicago Tribune, 3 Aug. 2022 George Gascón who is acting as the office’s chief spokeswoman, said prosecutors are reviewing other cases where Reyes was listed as a potential witness to see if those defendants’ sentences might be affected as well. James Queally, Los Angeles Times, 28 July 2022 Her trial started July 1, and Wednesday was her first appearance as a witness. Vladimir Isachenkov, Anchorage Daily News, 27 July 2022 Her trial started July 1, and Wednesday was her first appearance as a witness. Vladimir Isachenkov, Chron, 27 July 2022 Lee’s former business and asset manager Bradley J. Herman is listed as a witness for the prosecution. Winston Cho, The Hollywood Reporter, 27 July 2022 As many as eight people grabbed items from that display case at 125 N. Robertson Blvd., and escaped in three vehicles, a witness told NBC Los Angeles. Andrew Blankstein, NBC News, 21 July 2022 One witness told police that Panza attempted to flee from the assailants, who shot at him while giving chase. cleveland, 21 July 2022 The argument didn't get loud or violent, a witness told police. The Indianapolis Star, 20 July 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Kevin’s brother, Bion Kirk, Sunday’s event was an emotional thing to witness. Palak Jayswal, The Salt Lake Tribune, 18 July 2022 Fairgoers can witness live butter sculpting daily in the Exhibit Hall from noon to 8 p.m. From Usa Today Network And Wire Reports, USA TODAY, 21 July 2022 The ordinance states that before crowd-control weapons can be used, an on-scene police supervisor must personally witness violence or property destruction and determine that no other reasonable methods of de-escalation will be successful. Nick Stoico, BostonGlobe.com, 19 July 2022 World powers and the United Nations have repeatedly expressed concern over rising global food prices and a potential food shortage crisis as two of the world’s largest grain exporters witness mass disruptions. Sarah El Sirgany, CNN, 8 July 2022 Sometimes aides — because of luck, timing and proximity — make or witness history. Dan Zak, Washington Post, 1 July 2022 Priscilla was among the roughly 80,000 people who came to witness Elvis's funeral procession. Nicole Briese, PEOPLE.com, 23 June 2022 Kidman and her beau Keith Urban even stole a kiss before the show, which, of course, the crowd that gathered loved to witness. Sam Sussman, Vogue, 9 July 2022 That reality led to many ugly blowouts that Allen traveled down from the Seattle area to witness. oregonlive, 8 July 2022 See More

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.

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

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Last Updated

7 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Witness.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/witness. Accessed 17 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for witness


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


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



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

More from Merriam-Webster on witness

Nglish: Translation of witness for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of witness for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about witness


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