from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A writ requiring appearance in court to give testimony.
  • transitive v. To serve or summon with such a writ.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A writ requiring someone to appear in court to give testimony.
  • v. To summon with a subpoena.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a writ issued by court authority to compel the attendance of a witness at a judicial proceeding; disobedience may be punishable as a contempt of court
  • v. serve or summon with a subpoena


Middle English suppena, from Medieval Latin sub poenā, under a penalty (from the opening words of the writ) : Latin sub, under; see sub- + Latin poenā, ablative of poena, penalty; see kwei-1 in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
First attested with this spelling in 1623 CE, from Latin: sub ("under") and poena ("penalty"). (Wiktionary)



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  • Literally, “under punishment” (of the court)

    September 18, 2007