witness

noun
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

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

Barger was arrested Tuesday morning after a witness reported him watching a tree on fire near Abbott Road, according to the complaint. Zaz Hollander, Anchorage Daily News, "Arrest made in Hillside brush fire after man found near second suspicious blaze," 4 Sep. 2019 Hawker was a key witness for the prosecution, which sought to prove Craig intended to influence U.S. media. Amber Ali, CBS News, "Greg Craig found not guilty of lying to Justice Department about Ukraine work," 4 Sep. 2019 Sainz said witnesses reported hearing several gunshots and saw a light-colored sedan leaving the area around the time of the shooting. Karen Kucher, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Fatal shooting in City Heights alley; victim said to be male in late teens or early 20s," 29 Aug. 2019 Lake County’s top prosecutor has determined that 16 Sheriff’s Office employees can still be credible court witnesses despite offensive Facebook posts flagged as part of a national research project. Lisa Maria Garza, orlandosentinel.com, "Lake County deputies are credible witnesses despite offensive Facebook posts, state attorney says," 29 Aug. 2019 No witnesses reported seeing him inside the vehicle. Alice Yin, chicagotribune.com, "14-year-old boy, his hair on fire, seen running from burning vehicle in Bronzeville, police say," 27 Aug. 2019 An investigation was launched after witnesses reported that people at the Ridin’ High shop sold marijuana to teenagers, according to the office of the US Attorney for the District of Vermont. Lisa Rathke, BostonGlobe.com, "Skateboard shop owners accused of selling pot from Vermont store," 26 Aug. 2019 Police said witnesses reported hearing multiple gunshots. Carol Robinson | Crobinson@al.com, al, "Man killed in shooting outside UAB Hospital was the aggressor, authorities say," 14 Aug. 2019 Amanda Custer, 31, has been missing since July 29 when a witness reported seeing the woman, who was possibly unconscious, being loaded into the rear cargo hatch of a gray 2017 Toyota Prius outside a home in Monrovia. Los Angeles Times, "Search expands for Monrovia woman whose boyfriend allegedly rapped about killing her," 5 Aug. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Both farmers and chefs are powered by a resilient spirit that can be witnessed in real time, as La Placita de Santurce is packed once more with dancers balancing flaky empanadillas and Medalla beer. Aliza Abarbanel, Bon Appétit, "Where to Eat in San Juan, Where Restaurants Aren’t Just Rebuilding—They’re Thriving," 10 Sep. 2019 Some lucky portions of the northern U.S. will get to witness the Northern Lights this weekend, a result of a coming geomagnetic storm. Daisy Hernandez, Popular Mechanics, "How to See the Northern Lights This Weekend," 30 Aug. 2019 To fly over Europe is to witness many of the policy challenges awaiting leaders on their return from holidays. The Economist, "Europe’s long vacation flight home," 29 Aug. 2019 The type of care extended to these creatures in rural Syria, where domestic pets that are confined to the home are not as common, could be witnessed in their interactions with our American cat. Marlo Safi, National Review, "The American Art of Obsessing over Your Pets," 24 Aug. 2019 He was inspired to do so after witnessing a similar event for U.S. veterans, back in 2013. Chloe Foussianes, Town & Country, "Prince Harry Jokes About Wearing Speedos in a Letter to Tennis Player Dylan Alcott," 20 Aug. 2019 Stimulate the mind The Lions made aesthetic changes to their locker room this offseason that reporters witnessed for the first time Monday in Allen Park. Dave Birkett, Detroit Free Press, "Lions' Mike Daniels, Marvin Jones back to practice; locker room gets makeover," 19 Aug. 2019 Forty-two years later, on July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong was allowed to bring a personal guest to the Kennedy Space Center to witness the launch of NASA's towering Saturn V rocket. Wade Roush, Scientific American, "Despite What You Might Think, Major Technological Changes Are Coming More Slowly Than They Once Did," 13 Aug. 2019 According to the Orange County Register, athlete Chuck Patterson got to witness an interesting natural phenomenon while going on a surfing trip near Laguna Beach, California: a massive pod of dolphins swimming alongside his boat. Andrea Romano, Sunset Magazine, "Watch This Spectacular Video of a Massive “Stampede” of Dolphins Near Laguna Beach," 30 July 2019

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

12 Sep 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 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.

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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