or sub·pe·na

[suh-pee-nuh, suh b-]Law.
  1. 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.
  1. to serve with a subpoena.

Origin of subpoena

1375–1425; late Middle English < Latin sub poenā under penalty (the first words of the writ)
Related formsun·sub·poe·naed, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for subpoenas

decree, mandate, warrant, summons, cite, summon, command

Examples from the Web for subpoenas

Contemporary Examples of subpoenas

Historical Examples of subpoenas

British Dictionary definitions for subpoenas


  1. 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
  1. (tr) to serve with a subpoena

Word Origin for 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

Word Origin and History for subpoenas



early 15c., sub pena, from Medieval Latin sub poena "under penalty," the first words of the writ commanding the presence of someone under penalty of failure, from Latin sub "under" (see sub-) + poena, ablative of poena "penalty" (see penal). The verb is attested from 1630s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

subpoenas in Culture



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.