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 One witness told police that Owens reached into a fanny pack before the shots were fired. Paul Walsh, Star Tribune, "Motive remains elusive as accomplice sentenced for teen's murder in Minneapolis," 13 Oct. 2020 Jones was identified as the front passenger in the car by the witness. Nataly Keomoungkhoun, Dallas News, "2nd arrest made after man killed in case of mistaken identity, Arlington police say," 8 Oct. 2020 One witness told police that protesters had thrown a bicycle and a thermos at the truck before its driver got out of his vehicle, WTOC reported. Danielle Wallace, Fox News, "Georgia man charged after tossing smoke grenade, pointing gun at Breonna Taylor protesters," 6 Oct. 2020 Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron has said one witness told investigators the officers had announced themselves. Ray Sanchez, CNN, "A door busted open. A chaotic scene. A life taken. What the Breonna Taylor grand jury audio reveals," 3 Oct. 2020 The witness told police two other people, including Wigley, exited the SUV, confronted Green and forced him into the backseat of the vehicle. Carol Robinson | Crobinson@al.com, al, "Reward offered in killing of Auburn teen; records provide new details of disappearance," 15 Sep. 2020 One witness told detectives the dispute was over $5, according to an arrest affidavit filed in court. Peter Hermann, Washington Post, "Man charged with killing his father in Northeast Washington," 14 Sep. 2020 Another witness to the explosion told Al Jazeera he was shocked by the amount of devastation caused by the accident. Jason Duaine Hahn, PEOPLE.com, "Massive Explosion in Lebanon's Capital Beirut Leaves at Least 73 People Dead, Thousands More Injured," 4 Aug. 2020 The woman ran in front of the car to stop it from leaving the parking lot and the car struck her, the witness told police, Newton said. Kirk Mitchell, The Denver Post, "A woman and kids were found unharmed after possible kidnapping in Colorado Springs," 11 Mar. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb There was no need to have to witness the incompetence of the New York Knicks, mediocrity of the Charlotte Hornets, indifference to a gap season by the Golden State Warriors. Ira Winderman, sun-sentinel.com, "Winderman: NBA’s bubble basketball lessons should endure beyond Heat-Lakers | Commentary," 10 Oct. 2020 Jason Robey, co-owner of the company that bottles Foster’s hot sauce, was one of four judges asked to witness the event. San Diego Union-Tribune, "San Diego pepper enthusiast eats 44 Carolina Reapers, the world’s hottest chilis," 3 Oct. 2020 There were other members of the press present on the pier with us, and we were all allowed to witness the boat’s docking but not to get close to it or to take pictures. Teju Cole, New York Times, "In Dark Times, I Sought Out the Turmoil of Caravaggio’s Paintings," 23 Sep. 2020 Word spread of the impending challenge, and more than 500 people gathered with picnic hampers and blankets on a slope overlooking the courts to witness the demonstration. Frederick N. Rasmussen, baltimoresun.com, "Mildred F. ‘Mitzi’ Swan, a participant in the historic 1948 desegregation of Druid Hill Park tennis courts, dies," 17 Sep. 2020 Richer benefactors would also be able to witness how their wealth can enrich their community — a moralizing experience in itself that might serve as a social check against the materialist excesses of consumerism. Cameron Hilditch, National Review, "The Case for Private Education Co-operatives," 9 Sep. 2020 The couple has also set up an Instagram account for Rue; it's already amassed a large following just waiting to witness precious moments. Bianca Betancourt, Harper's BAZAAR, "Teyana Taylor and Iman Shumpert Welcome a Baby Girl," 8 Sep. 2020 That means officers have to witness another crime before they’re allowed to pull a vehicle over. cleveland, "Gov. Mike DeWine decries deadly July on Ohio highways, pushes lawmakers to pass distracted driving bill," 1 Sep. 2020 While the two worlds will appear on Saturday at their closest together for most people, those across most of South America will actually witness Mars disappear behind the moon. National Geographic, "Why has it been so hard to let brilliant women shine?," 2 Sep. 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

17 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Witness.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/witness. Accessed 24 Oct. 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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