or sub·pe·na

[ suh-pee-nuh, suhb- ]
/ səˈpi nə, səb- /
Save This Word!


the usual writ for the summoning of witnesses or the submission of evidence, as records or documents, before a court or other deliberative body.

verb (used with object), sub·poe·naed, sub·poe·na·ing.

to serve with a subpoena.



Apostrophes can be tricky; prove you know the difference between it’s and its in this crafty quiz!
Question 1 of 12
On the farm, the feed for chicks is significantly different from the roosters’; ______ not even comparable.

Origin of subpoena

1375–1425; late Middle English <Latin sub poenā under penalty (the first words of the writ)
un·sub·poe·naed, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021

British Dictionary definitions for subpoena

/ (səbˈpiːnə, səˈpiːnə) /


a writ issued by a court of justice requiring a person to appear before the court at a specified time

verb -nas, -naing or -naed

(tr) to serve with a subpoena
C15: from Latin: under penalty
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

Cultural definitions for subpoena

[ (suh-pee-nuh) ]

An order of a court, a legislature, or a grand jury compelling a witness to be present at a trial or hearing, under penalty of fine or imprisonment. Subpoena is Latin for “under penalty.”

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Get Online Help For Kids!