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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.
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 witnesses
  • There are dozens of illuminating moments in these narratives told from the vantage point of participants and witnesses.
  • Its has been confirmed truthfully via research, witnesses that the cells were taken without her consent.
  • Either party should be allowed to cross-examine the other's witnesses and introduce rebutting testimony.
  • At the mouth of two witnesses or three shall every word be established.
  • Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.
  • The heart's testimony is stronger than a thousand witnesses.
  • The chief judge asked the prisoner, who he thought hindered these witnesses from giving their testimonies.
  • Dreadful as it was, she was conscious of a shelter in the presence of these thousand witnesses.
  • The decree authorises police raids without warrant, the use of anonymous witnesses and secret evidence.
  • Cameras might make witnesses cagey, or unduly humiliate defendants.
British Dictionary definitions for witnesses


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 witnesses



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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witnesses 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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