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 Among those guidelines is allowing staff to question witnesses, as will happen for the first time with Lewandowski. Mary Clare Jalonick, Fortune, "Lewandowski to Testify at First Impeachment Hearing as Democrats Investigate Trump," 17 Sep. 2019 Ogg said witnesses tried to intervene and to stop Guardado. Fox News, "Houston man gets 20 years for running over ex-girlfriend multiple times, prosecutors say," 17 Sep. 2019 Same tactic reported in other states Other confidential witnesses told similar stories, according to the complaint. Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica, "Lawsuit: AT&T signed customers up for DirecTV Now without their knowledge," 17 Sep. 2019 Among those guidelines is allowing staff to question witnesses, as will happen for the first time with Lewandowski. Mary Clare Jalonick, chicagotribune.com, "Corey Lewandowski to testify, 2 former Trump aides won’t, as House Judiciary Committee holds its first impeachment hearing," 17 Sep. 2019 Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who never worked for the White House, is expected to attend the hearing as its sole witness on Tuesday. Mary Clare Jalonick, Anchorage Daily News, "White House orders 2 former aides to defy House subpoenas," 17 Sep. 2019 In the episode, while taking his daughter on a tour of liberal arts colleges in Maine, Tony comes across a former associate living a quiet civilian life in witness protection years after ratting out some of Tony’s pals. Adam Wilson, Harper's magazine, "Good Bad Bad Good," 16 Sep. 2019 Dive into this incredible underwater ecosystem alongside marine biologists and conservationists to lend a hand in preserving at-risk habitats, and witness groundbreaking conservation initiatives in action. National Geographic, "Baja and the Sea of Cortez Expedition: Marine Conservation," 15 Sep. 2019 As part of the plea deal, prosecutors also dismissed 12 other charges against Jackson including corpse abuse, six counts of accessory to a crime, two counts of witness tampering and other charges, according to Gunnison County District Court records. Kirk Mitchell, The Denver Post, "Gunnison County woman guilty of tampering with corpse after brother’s remains buried with goat heads," 13 Sep. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb That struggle led him to brawl with schoolyard bullies, to memorize and recite Irish poetry, and to witness his mother threaten a nun who had humiliated him. Los Angeles Times, "Joe Biden’s childhood struggle with a stutter: How he overcame it and how it shaped him," 16 Sep. 2019 Over the weekend, the couple were two of the 150 attendees to witness the nuptials between Benson, 34, and his boyfriend of nearly four years, Adam Wise, in a romantic ceremony at the Charles Krug Winery in Napa Valley, California. Eric Todisco, PEOPLE.com, "Megyn Kelly's Husband Shares Throwback Wedding Day Photo: 'I Love This Amazing Woman'," 10 Sep. 2019 Not many were on hand to witness Reynolds’ debut at the stadium, either. Kerry Crowley, The Mercury News, "Former Giants prospect beats old team in front of smallest Oracle Park crowd since 2010," 9 Sep. 2019 Americans in the Pacific, Central, Mountain, and Alaskan time zones will reportedly be able to witness the rare full moon on Friday 13. Meghan Overdeep, Southern Living, "Eyes to the Sky Y’all: A Rare Harvest Micromoon Is Happening on Friday the 13th," 9 Sep. 2019 Rabid fans were able to witness Mayfield's rapid progression from college athlete to pro and the Browns' hopeful future taking form in training camp via HBO's Hard Knocks reality show. Fortune, "Could Baker Mayfield and Odell Beckham, Jr. Be Worth More to Cleveland Than LeBron?," 7 Sep. 2019 The game was Brooklyn’s first home night game, and 38,748 fans had squeezed into Ebbets Field to witness the historic event. Mark Schmetzer, Cincinnati.com, "Top games in Cincinnati Reds history No. 14: Johnny Vander Meer’s second no-hitter," 4 Sep. 2019 Jenkins found her in the back of the home and started yelling at her, according to witness statements. Ryan Martin, Indianapolis Star, "Pregnant mother killed by man after weeks of harassment and abuse, police say," 21 Aug. 2019 Harper paused to witness its ascent, then raced around the bases as a stadium was left in awe. Bruce Jenkins, SFChronicle.com, "DeMarcus Cousins’ latest injury: How much can one man take?," 16 Aug. 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


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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Learn More about witness

Statistics for witness

Last Updated

24 Oct 2019

Time Traveler for witness

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

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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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Comments on witness

What made you want to look up witness? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


not being in agreement or harmony

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