witness

noun
wit·​ness | \ ˈwit-nəs \

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

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 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 Donham, then 21 and known as Carolyn Bryant, testified in 1955 as a prospective defense witness in the trial of Bryant and Milam. Jay Reeves, Anchorage Daily News, "‘New information’ prompts US to reopen investigation of brutal 1955 slaying of black teen," 12 July 2018 Donham, then 21 years old and known as Carolyn Bryant, testified in 1955 as a prospective defense witness in the trial of Bryant and Milam. Jay Reeves, BostonGlobe.com, "Government probing ‘new information’ in Emmett Till slaying," 12 July 2018 The list includes having employees determine which cases or examinations need urgent attention, such as scheduling witness interviews. Kate Davidson, WSJ, "Returning Government Workers Likely to Confront Glitches," 25 Jan. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Modeling healthy self-care can be helpful for our children to witness and internalize. Marisa Lascala, Good Housekeeping, "Putting Your Family First Doesn’t Make You a Better Mom," 14 Jan. 2019 Shortly thereafter Simpson was sent to Paris to cover the haute couture collections in a city torn apart by the occupation and to witness the debut of Christian Dior’s fashion house and his New Look. Hamish Bowles, Vogue, "Babs Simpson, a Former Vogue Editor Who Collaborated With Irving Penn, Has Died at 105," 7 Jan. 2019 When Kacey Musgraves won Album of the Year at the 2018 Country Music Association Awards, one very important person was there to witness it: her grandma! Taysha Murtaugh, Country Living, "Kacey Musgraves's Grandma Was Her 2018 CMA Awards Date," 15 Nov. 2018 Thankfully his youngest son, Mike, was there to witness it. courant.com, "James J. Dunham," 8 July 2018 Unfortunately, the United States will miss out on the celestial spectacle this month and will have to wait until July 2020 to witness a lunar eclipse, according to NASA.gov. Fiza Pirani, ajc, "Longest lunar eclipse of the century coming up in July," 3 July 2018 There are plenty of places here in the U.S. to witness evidence of dinosaurs with our own two eyes. Susan B. Barnes, USA TODAY, "Dinosaurs in real-life: Where to find them around the US," 26 June 2018 Blind faith or the opportunity to witness cultures and cities which, usually, would not be high on the to-do list are often stored in the back of my mind as some sort of snap reflex. SI.com, "90min World Cup Fan Diaries: England's Start Shows Why Fans Religiously Follow Three Lions," 25 June 2018 Dig My Grave What Happened: A Russian journalist pulls a Tom Sawyer and has the chance to witness reactions to his own death in one of the more surreal news stories of an already surreal week. Graeme Mcmillan, WIRED, "While You Were Offline: In 2018, Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction," 3 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 Feb 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 \

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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