Definition of witness noun from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary



    BrE BrE//ˈwɪtnəs//
    ; NAmE NAmE//ˈwɪtnəs//
    Marriage, Legal documents, Solving crime
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    person who sees something
  1. 1  (also eyewitness) [countable] a person who sees something happen and is able to describe it to other people Police have appealed for witnesses to the accident. a witness to the killing See related entries: Solving crime
  2. in court
  3. 2  [countable] a person who gives evidence in court a defence/prosecution witness to appear as (a) witness for the defence/prosecution Several witnesses testified that there had been two gunmen. Synonymswitnessobserver onlooker passer-by bystander eyewitnessThese are all words for a person who sees something happen.witness a person who sees something happen and is able to describe it to other people; a person who gives evidence in a court of law:Police have appealed for witnesses to the accident.observer a person who sees something happen:According to observers, the plane exploded shortly after take-off.onlooker a person who watches something that is happening but is not involved in it:A crowd of onlookers gathered at the scene of the crash.passer-by a person who is going past somebody/​something by chance, especially when something unexpected happens:Police asked passers-by if they had witnessed the accident.bystander a person who is near and can see what is happening when something such as an accident or fight takes place:Three innocent bystanders were killed in the crossfire.eyewitness a person who has seen a crime or accident and can describe it afterwards.Patterns a witness/​an observer/​an onlooker/​a passer-by/​a bystander/​an eyewitness sees something an observer/​an onlooker/​a passer-by/​a bystander witnesses something
  4. of signature
  5. 3  [countable] a person who is present when an official document is signed and who also signs it to prove that they saw this happen He was one of the witnesses at our wedding. See related entries: Marriage, Legal documents
  6. of religious beliefs
  7. 4[uncountable] evidence of a person’s strong religious beliefs, that they show by what they say and do in public see also Jehovah’s Witness
  8. Word OriginOld English witnes (see wit, -ness). Wordfinderaccident, ambulance, casualty, first aid, hospital, injure, paramedic, stretcher, victim, witness CollocationsCrimeCommitting a crime commit a crime/​a murder/​a violent assault/​a brutal killing/​an armed robbery/​fraud be involved in terrorism/​a suspected arson attack/​people smuggling/​human trafficking engage/​participate in criminal activity/​illegal practices/​acts of mindless vandalism steal somebody’s wallet/​purse/(British English) mobile phone/(North American English) cell phone rob a bank/​a person/​a tourist break into/ (British English) burgle/ (North American English) burglarize a house/​a home/​an apartment hijack a plane/​ship/​bus smuggle drugs/​weapons/​arms/​immigrants launder drug money (through something) forge documents/​certificates/​passports take/​accept/​pay somebody/​offer (somebody) a bribe run a phishing/​an email/​an Internet scamFighting crime combat/​fight crime/​terrorism/​corruption/​drug trafficking prevent/​stop credit-card fraud/​child abuse/​software piracy deter/​stop criminals/​burglars/​thieves/​shoplifters/​vandals reduce/​tackle/​crack down on knife/​gun/​violent/​street crime; (especially British English) antisocial behaviour foil a bank raid/​a terrorist plot help/​support/​protect the victims of crimeInvestigating crime report a crime/​a theft/​a rape/​an attack/(especially British English) an incident to the police witness the crime/​attack/​murder/​incident investigate a murder/(especially North American English) a homicide/​a burglary/​a robbery/​the alleged incident conduct/​launch/​pursue an investigation (into…); (especially British English) a police/​murder inquiry investigate/​reopen a criminal/​murder case examine/​investigate/​find fingerprints at the crime scene/​the scene of crime collect/​gather forensic evidence uncover new evidence/​a fraud/​a scam/​a plot/​a conspiracy/​political corruption/​a cache of weapons describe/​identify a suspect/​the culprit/​the perpetrator/​the assailant/​the attacker question/​interrogate a suspect/​witness solve/​crack the case CollocationsCriminal justiceBreaking the law break/​violate/​obey/​uphold the law be investigated/​arrested/​tried for a crime/​a robbery/​fraud be arrested/ (especially North American English) indicted/​convicted on charges of rape/​fraud/(especially US English) felony charges be arrested on suspicion of arson/​robbery/​shoplifting be accused of/​be charged with murder/(especially North American English) homicide/​four counts of fraud face two charges of indecent assault admit your guilt/​liability/​responsibility (for something) deny the allegations/​claims/​charges confess to a crime grant/​be refused/​be released on/​skip/​jump bailThe legal process stand/​await/​bring somebody to/​come to/​be on trial take somebody to/​come to/​settle something out of court face/​avoid/​escape prosecution seek/​retain/​have the right to/​be denied access to legal counsel hold/​conduct/​attend/​adjourn a hearing/​trial sit on/​influence/​persuade/​convince the jury sit/​stand/​appear/​be put/​place somebody in the dock plead guilty/​not guilty to a crime be called to/​enter (British English) the witness box take/​put somebody on the stand/(North American English) the witness stand call/​subpoena/​question/​cross-examine a witness give/​hear the evidence against/​on behalf of somebody raise/​withdraw/​overrule an objection reach a unanimous/​majority verdict return/​deliver/​record a verdict of not guilty/​unlawful killing/​accidental death convict/​acquit the defendant of the crime secure a conviction/​your acquittal lodge/​file an appeal appeal (against)/challenge/​uphold/​overturn a conviction/​verdictSentencing and punishment pass sentence on somebody carry/​face/​serve a seven-year/​life sentence receive/​be given the death penalty be sentenced to ten years (in prison/​jail) carry/​impose/​pay a fine (of $3 000)/a penalty (of 14 years imprisonment) be imprisoned/​jailed for drug possession/​fraud/​murder do/​serve time/​ten years be sent to/​put somebody in/​be released from jail/​prison be/​put somebody/​spend X years on death row be granted/​be denied/​break (your) paroleExtra examples A judicial investigation was ordered, but witnesses were threatened and none would testify. According to witnesses, the thief escaped through the bedroom window. As the last person to see her alive, he was a material witness in the case. He was charged with conspiracy to suborn witnesses. He was placed on a witness protection scheme. He was subpoenaed as a witness in a bankruptcy case. Police have so far failed to trace any witnesses to the attack. She appeared as a character witness. She was the only witness to identify Peters as the attacker. She went into a witness protection program. The ancient temples bear silent witness to the passing dynasties. The defence called their first witness. The jury convicted him on two counts of witness tampering. The next witness took the stand. The police are appealing for witnesses. Two witnesses came forward with evidence. Witnesses reported that the suspect was a white male. Would you be willing to act as a witness to my signature when I sign my will? a witness to murder the defence’s chief witness the marriage contract is signed in front of witnesses Several witnesses testified that there had been two gunmen. She appeared as a witness for the prosecution. We have a witness to the killing. When you sign the contract you’ll need a witness. a prosecution/​defence witnessIdioms
    bear/give witness (to something)
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    to provide evidence of the truth of something The crowd of mourners at his funeral bore witness to the great affection in which he was held.
      be (a) witness to something
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    1. 1(formal) to see something take place He has been witness to a terrible murder.
    2. 2to show that something is true; to provide evidence for something His good health is a witness to the success of the treatment.
See the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary entry: witness