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 The defense case mainly relied on the testimony of three witnesses that Weinstein's lawyers used to try to cast doubt on the accounts on two of the accusers. Michael R. Sisak, Anchorage Daily News, "Weinstein doesn’t testify in his rape trial as defense rests," 11 Feb. 2020 Senate Republicans are shrugging off President Trump’s dismissal last week of two key witnesses in the impeachment trial from their jobs in the administration. Andrew Duehren, WSJ, "Senate Republicans: Trump Had the Right to Fire Vindman, Sondland," 11 Feb. 2020 Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is imploring dozens of inspectors general to investigate whistleblower retaliation in the Trump administration after last week's purge of two impeachment witnesses. Madison Dibble, Washington Examiner, "Schumer asks watchdogs to investigate whistleblower retaliation after Trump purges impeachment witnesses," 10 Feb. 2020 Several more defense witnesses are expected to testify on Tuesday before the defense rests its case. Chris Francescani, ABC News, "Defense witness testifies Weinstein's rape accuser called him a 'spiritual soulmate'," 10 Feb. 2020 One of the witnesses initially identified someone else on Facebook. Carol Robinson | Crobinson@al.com, al, "Man acquitted of one shooting death, and serving time for another, pleads guilty to manslaughter," 7 Feb. 2020 Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander was among a handful of GOP lawmakers who had appeared open to voting in favor of hearing witnesses. Matt Ford, The New Republic, "The U.S. Senate Embraces Trumpian Nihilism," 31 Jan. 2020 Murkowski has appeared open to the idea of witnesses. Time, "These Republican Senators May Decide Whether Trump's Impeachment Trial Includes New Witnesses," 29 Jan. 2020 Democrats have been calling on Republican senators to call more witnesses, but perhaps a sweeter approach (pun intended) will do the trick. Sarah Midkiff, refinery29.com, "This Bakery Is Sending Each GOP Senator A Sheet Cake With An Important Message," 29 Jan. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The cabin may even have witnessed a Civil War battle. Fox News, "Colonial-era log cabin discovered inside Pennsylvania bar," 11 Feb. 2020 Recent years have witnessed many Bollywood movies, like Dangal and 3 Idiots, become massive hits in the country and the demand is only growing. Niharika Sharma, Quartz India, "Coronavirus brings more bad news for India’s beleaguered economy," 5 Feb. 2020 The Moore Police Department responded to a hit-and-run Monday afternoon in the athletic area of Moore High School and were pointed in the direction of a fleeing vehicle by students who witnessed the crash, Lewis said. Hollie Silverman, CNN, "1 student was killed and 5 others were injured after they were hit by a pick-up truck during cross country track practice," 4 Feb. 2020 Roberts has witnessed the scientific areas of interest broaden over the past decade to include medicine. Molly Glick, Popular Science, "Space might be the perfect place to grow human organs," 30 Jan. 2020 Veterinarians like Amelia Nuwer have witnessed a fair share of horror stories. National Geographic, "Dogs, the other victims of the opioid crisis," 29 Jan. 2020 Newton has witnessed Vegas’ tremendous evolution over his six decades there. Hilary Hughes, Billboard, "Rat Pack to Fame Monster: The Rise, Fall and Lucrative Rebirth of the Las Vegas Residency," 28 Jan. 2020 Michelangelo might also have witnessed the bulging vein in people during harrowing events that occurred during his life. Shari Rudavsky, USA TODAY, "How an Indiana doctor found a medical mystery in Michelangelo's 'David'," 16 Jan. 2020 Their daughter, 13, had witnessed the exchange and the man agreed to get a hotel room for the night. Thomas Jewell, cleveland, "Lovers quarrel over house of baseball cards: Orange Police Blotter," 3 Jan. 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

14 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Witness.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/witness. Accessed 25 Feb. 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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