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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. 2015.
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Examples from the web for witness
  • Having been there to witness this historic event your article has brought back wonderful memories.
  • The genomes of the living lizards testify to their weird origins, but it's much harder to actually witness these beginnings.
  • The use of material witness warrants in terrorism investigations continues to be shrouded in secrecy.
  • It is painful to witness professional policemen on a university campus responding to students with such violence.
  • Back then, there was no one to witness either the misery or the bravery of this heroic band.
  • To plant spring-flowering bulbs is to witness a miraculous transformation.
  • The defense will also receive copies of the criminal investigation files and witness statements.
  • He might have changed his advice if he had lived to witness the current debate on globalisation.
  • Occasionally, the public is also invited to witness the release of a rehabilitated animal.
  • You'll not only see future surfing stars, you'll also witness some of the finest waves in the world.
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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