Definition of witness in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈwɪtnəs/


1A person who sees an event, typically a crime or accident, take place: police are appealing for witnesses to the accident I was witness to one of the most amazing comebacks in sprinting history
More example sentences
  • This normally takes the form of two witnesses to the crime or one witness and corroborating evidence, usually in the form of forensic evidence.
  • Police are appealing for any witnesses to the accident to contact them at Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
  • I am appealing to any witnesses to the accident to come forward.
observer, onlooker, looker-on, eyewitness, spectator, viewer, watcher;
bystander, passer-by;
North American  earwitness
1.1A person giving sworn testimony to a court of law or the police: a key witness at the trial [as modifier]: oral evidence set down in witness statements
More example sentences
  • The evidence consisted of admissions, exhibits and the testimony of two police witnesses.
  • Although referred to by the witness Police Constable Fagin during the course of her testimony the print out was not produced in evidence before me.
  • The defense also subpoenaed several police officers as defense witnesses who evidently were not taken into account in making the first estimate.
attestor, testifier;
Law  deponent
1.2A person who is present at the signing of a document and signs it themselves to confirm this: a deed signed in the presence of a witness
More example sentences
  • To become a legal document, the will must be printed and signed with two witnesses present.
  • If you didn't use a lawyer, you could always retype the entire document and then sign it in the presence of two witnesses and a notary.
  • The document is signed by two witnesses, and has the standing of a legally binding agreement.
2 [mass noun] Evidence; proof: the memorial service was witness to the wide circle of his interests
More example sentences
  • History is witness to the fact, however, that those who chose to migrate and remained aware of the price to be paid are the ones who made the process of migration a successful one.
  • There's nothing more uncomfortable than being witness to someone's issues.
  • History is witness to the fact that at that time also some extremists had incited local people to ignite the fire of riots.
evidence, indication, proof, testimony
2.1Used to refer to confirmation or evidence given by signature or under oath: in witness thereof, the parties sign this document
2.2Open profession of one’s religious faith through words or actions: they will be able to give witness of their faith and confidence in God
More example sentences
  • This implies that religious witness is also in order.
  • This ministry has opened many opportunities for witness, counseling and inviting people to take part in the church's fellowship life.
  • The call for ‘innovation’ is in a sense a call for contextualization of faith, worship and witness even in North America.
3 (also witness mark) A line or remnant of an original surface on a workpiece to show how much material has been removed or the shape of the original outline.


[with object]
1See (an event, typically a crime or accident) happen: staff who witnessed the murder
More example sentences
  • According to restaurant staff who witnessed the crime, there were at least six attackers, and they were dressed in police uniforms.
  • At the moment, we are even working with Interpol because one of our clients witnessed war crimes in Kosovar.
  • The girl managed to hide behind the refrigerator with her brother and witnessed the war crimes first-hand.
see, observe, watch, look on at, be a witness to, view, note, notice, spot;
be present at, attend
literary behold
1.1Be present as someone signs (a document) or gives (their signature) to a document and sign it oneself to confirm this: the clerk witnessed her signature
More example sentences
  • The signatures were forged by the defendant, who also signed the documents as having witnessed the signatures.
  • Ms Malone said she put her name as witnessing the documents that Mr Phelan handed to her.
  • Mr Boundy was asked to witness the document and ensure that it was dated, and to return the mortgage document to the Piccadilly branch.
countersign, sign, endorse, validate;
certificate, document;
North American  notarize
2Have knowledge of (a development) from observation or experience: what we are witnessing is the birth of a dangerously liberal orthodoxy
More example sentences
  • In the end, however, the administration thought it would be an intriguing experience for students to witness the process of movie making up close and personal.
  • Several experimental observations witnessing the reliability of the structural model have already been reported.
  • We'd be able to watch that life growing and witness its development.
2.1Be the place, period, or setting in which (an event or development) takes place: the 1980s witnessed an unprecedented increase in the scope of the electronic media
More example sentences
  • Finally, this period witnessed an unprecedented growth of Japan's cities.
  • Indeed, the US economy witnessed unprecedented growth.
  • The post-Ranjit Singh period witnessed certain developments when attempts were made to revert to the Khalsa tradition.
2.2Be a sign or proof of (something); serve as evidence: the mid-1980s saw an intensification of interest in community care, as witnessed by the publication of four major reports [no object]: his writings witness to an inner toughness
More example sentences
  • Neither panels, as wings of a triptych, are of course signed, but they witness to a feature of El Greco's life - the production of multiple versions of the same scenes.
  • To be a martyr is to witness to the truth we hold dear about our faith: the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit.
  • They are true pilgrims who witness to us the meaning of hope.
attest to, be evidence/proof of, testify to, bear witness to, confirm, evidence, prove, verify, corroborate, substantiate, bear out;
show, demonstrate, establish, be a monument to, indicate, reveal
literary bespeak
2.3 [in imperative] Used to introduce an example that proves a preceding statement: the nuclear family is a vulnerable institution—witness the rates of marital breakdown
More example sentences
  • While I admire De-Bono ideas he does seem to be a bit of a control freak - witness his statement that the Aborigines have been playing the didgeridoo wrong for 3000 years.
3 [no object] Openly profess one’s religious faith: one of the purposes of his coming was to nerve the disciples to witness to Jesus
More example sentences
  • Each of us has received the Holy Spirit to witness to Jesus and to help spread the gospel.
  • Saints are forgiven sinners living by faith, witnessing to God's love, serving humanity, caring for creation.
  • And in humility, we all have to witness to our own faith in a way that enhances life rather than parade the bitterness with which fundamentalism distorts divine messages of love.



as God is my witness (or God be my witness)

An invocation of God as confirmation of the truth of a statement: God be my witness, sir, I didn’t!
More example sentences
  • And as God is my witness what I will say next is the truth - I locked eyes with the largest tiger snake any living man has seen.
  • Finally, my solemn pledge to you: as God is my witness, this site will never, ever feature blinking, flashing, animated advertising of any sort.
  • But as God is my witness, I am going to drive perfectly from now on.

call someone/thing to witness

archaic Appeal or refer to someone or something for confirmation or evidence of something.
Example sentences
  • The gods of Olympus know this sort of binding oath between them, which calls the infernal rivers to witness.
  • As such, Christians are called to witness to the faith that is in them concerning the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
  • The Bible calls us to witness to and to serve the religious other as neighbor.


Old English witnes (see wit1, -ness).

Words that rhyme with witness


For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: wit|ness

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