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[suh-pee-nuh, suh b-] /səˈpi nə, səb-/ Law.
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), subpoenaed, subpoenaing.
to serve with a subpoena.
Also, subpena.
Origin of subpoena
late Middle English
1375-1425; late Middle English < Latin sub poenā under penalty (the first words of the writ)
Related forms
unsubpoenaed, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for subpoena
  • It will have powers of search and seizure, to subpoena witnesses and to compel them to answer questions.
  • He used his subpoena power to put people on the stand for day after day.
  • It has subpoena power, but so far all witnesses have volunteered to appear under oath.
  • They could hold hearings and subpoena people and give them immunity.
  • There should be an inspector general with independent subpoena power.
  • The subpoena itself was so broad as to belie any previous knowledge of those allegations.
  • They thrust a subpoena in his hand, which he promptly crumpled, while mouthing obscenities.
  • The letter is not a subpoena, but companies usually respond voluntarily to such requests for information.
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, -naed
(transitive) to serve with a subpoena
Word Origin
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
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Word Origin and History for subpoena

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
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subpoena in Culture
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 American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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