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[wit-nis] /ˈwɪt nɪs/
verb (used with object)
to see, hear, or know by personal presence and perception:
to witness an accident.
to be present at (an occurrence) as a formal witness, spectator, bystander, etc.:
She witnessed our wedding.
to bear witness to; testify to; give or afford evidence of.
to attest by one's signature:
He witnessed her will.
verb (used without object)
to bear witness; testify; give or afford evidence.
an individual who, being present, personally sees or perceives a thing; a beholder, spectator, or eyewitness.
a person or thing that affords evidence.
a person who gives testimony, as in a court of law.
a person who signs a document attesting the genuineness of its execution.
testimony or evidence:
to bear witness to her suffering.
(initial capital letter) a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses.
Origin of witness
before 950; (noun) Middle English, Old English witnes orig., knowledge, understanding; see wit1, -ness; (v.) Middle English, derivative of the noun
Related forms
witnessable, adjective
witnesser, noun
prewitness, noun, verb (used with object)
self-witness, noun
self-witnessed, adjective
well-witnessed, adjective
1. perceive, watch, mark, notice, note. See observe. 10. proof, confirmation, substantiation. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for witness
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • She did not allow him to finish; she said hastily that she must witness the contest.

    The Blue Wall Richard Washburn Child
  • So that if anything happened to your witness, there would be no case for the Crown?

    Jack O' Judgment Edgar Wallace
  • Below is the view expressed by The Templar, itself, and also repeated by the witness.

  • Detectives were crowding round the witness, and had lifted him from the witness stand.

    Jack O' Judgment Edgar Wallace
  • "I was witness that he offered man-eaters' for sale," said Imam Din.

    Actions and Reactions Rudyard Kipling
British Dictionary definitions for witness


a person who has seen or can give first-hand evidence of some event
a person or thing giving or serving as evidence
a person who testifies, esp in a court of law, to events or facts within his own knowledge
a person who attests to the genuineness of a document, signature, etc, by adding his own signature
bear witness
  1. to give written or oral testimony
  2. to be evidence or proof of related adjective testimonial
(transitive) to see, be present at, or know at first hand
to give or serve as evidence (of)
(transitive) to be the scene or setting of: this field has witnessed a battle
(intransitive) to testify, esp in a court of law, to events within a person's own knowledge
(transitive) to attest to the genuineness of (a document, signature, etc) by adding one's own signature
Derived Forms
witnessable, adjective
witnesser, noun
Word Origin
Old English witnes (meaning both testimony and witness), from witan to know, wit² + -ness; related to Old Norse vitni
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for witness

Old English witnes "attestation of fact, event, etc., from personal knowledge;" also "one who so testifies;" originally "knowledge, wit," formed from wit (n.) + -ness. Christian use (late 14c.) is as a literal translation of Greek martys (see martyr). Witness stand is recorded from 1853.


c.1300, from witness (n.). Related: Witnessed; witnessing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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witness in the Bible

More than one witness was required in criminal cases (Deut. 17:6; 19:15). They were the first to execute the sentence on the condemned (Deut. 13:9; 17:7; 1 Kings 21:13; Matt. 27:1; Acts 7:57, 58). False witnesses were liable to punishment (Deut. 19:16-21). It was also an offence to refuse to bear witness (Lev. 5:1).

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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