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

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 His release was granted by the court his defense team’s presentation of a detailed bond proposal with witness testimony during a three-day hearing. Nancy Dillon, Rolling Stone, 11 Jan. 2022 Several other motions have been filed in the case, including one from Ang seeking to allow some witness testimony via video chat services such as Zoom. Jaime Adame, Arkansas Online, 10 Jan. 2022 In his closing argument over punishment, Martinez reminded the jury of changes in prosecution witness testimony and said there still was time to figure out the identity of the real gunman. Elizabeth Zavala, San Antonio Express-News, 10 Jan. 2022 Over two days of witness testimony, the board heard from the Marine colonel who led the investigation into the sinking, the corporal who drove the vehicle and parents of two of those killed. Andrew Dyer, San Diego Union-Tribune, 7 Jan. 2022 Some of the witness testimony was contradictory, particularly with regard to whether de Freitas was in Lisbon or Porto on the key date of March 28. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, 2 Jan. 2022 According to the Pocono Record, a previous pizza delivery robbery, witness testimony and surveillance footage helped police identify the trio as suspects. Christine Pelisek, PEOPLE.com, 23 Dec. 2021 Chu told jurors witness testimony had concluded and the jury would reconvene on Monday. NBC News, 18 Dec. 2021 Before the case heads to the jury, the prosecution and the defense will make their final points following 14 weeks of witness testimony, culminating with Holmes herself taking the stand in her own defense. Sara Ashley O'brien, CNN, 16 Dec. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The figures have raised hopes that the two countries are about to witness what happened in South Africa, where the wave crested at record highs and then fell significantly about a month later. Maria Cheng, chicagotribune.com, 11 Jan. 2022 Ghazi — who had previously worked with the director on About Elly as assistant director of photography — had asked to be present for rehearsals in order to witness the characters being developed. Alex Ritman, The Hollywood Reporter, 10 Jan. 2022 The Globes, once an opportunity to witness celebrities let loose and poke fun at one another, were reduced to social media posts. Washington Post, 10 Jan. 2022 The following morning, residents were instructed to come to a square near the presidential palace to witness the gruesome hanging of former president Mohammad Najibullah and his brother. Marc Lester, Anchorage Daily News, 9 Jan. 2022 By staying on campus, Jones also gets to witness her professional legacy unfurl. Sarah Matusek, oregonlive, 9 Jan. 2022 Other people were in the club but didn’t witness anything. Bob Sandrick, cleveland, 7 Jan. 2022 Another man arrived, 45-year-old Melchy Pierre Louis, who claimed to be a notary to witness the two sign the contract. Joe Mario Pedersen, orlandosentinel.com, 7 Jan. 2022 The Times sent a team of journalists to Kodiak Island in Alaska to witness the irreversible changes of the once-stable near-polar ecosystem. Mary Forgione, Los Angeles Times, 6 Jan. 2022

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

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

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Last Updated

15 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Witness.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/witness. Accessed 24 Jan. 2022.

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More Definitions for witness



English Language Learners Definition of witness

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a person who sees something (such as a crime) happen
: 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
: 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


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



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

More from Merriam-Webster on witness

Nglish: Translation of witness for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of witness for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about witness


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