Word of the Day : May 14, 2016


noun suh-PEE-nuh

What It Means

: a writ commanding a person designated in it to appear in court under a penalty for failure

subpoena in Context

Subpoenas have been issued to several of the defendant's family members ordering that they testify at trial.

"'If we have to compel them to come in, then that's what we're going to do,' he said, referring to possible subpoenas." — Sandra Tan, The Buffalo News, 8 Apr. 2016

Did You Know?

If you think you recognize the sub- in subpoena as the prefix meaning "under, beneath, below," you're on target. Subpoena arrived in Modern English (via the Middle English suppena) from the Latin sub poena, a combination of sub and poena, meaning "penalty." Other poena descendants in English include impunity ("freedom from penalty"), penal ("of or relating to punishment"), and even punish. There is also the verb subpoena, as in "Defense lawyers have subpoenaed several witnesses to the crime."

Word Family Quiz

What 4-letter verb derived from Latin poena can mean "to languish" or "to yearn intensely for something unattainable"?



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