- Date: 14th century
OE. witnes, more freq. ewitnes, f. (e)wit WIT n., IWIT + -nes -NESS. Cf. OHG. giwinessi, MDu. wetenisse. The passage in sense from abstract to concrete is paralleled in F. témoin (:L. testimonium). The uninflected pl. was frequent in early use; for separate illustration
1. The action of bearing witness or giving testimony. in witnessing of, as a witness to; to bear witnessing, to bear witness.
2. That which is uttered or stated in support of a fact or statement; evidence given. Obs.
3. Attestation (of a document). Chiefly in phr. in or into (the) witnessing of = F. en témoignage de.
4. The fact of being present and observing something. So witnessing ppl.
5. a. One who is called on, selected, or appointed to be present at a transaction, so as to be able to testify to its having taken place: spec. one who is present at the execution of a document and subscribes it in attestation thereof; more definitely, attesting or subscribing witness. Often in formulæ corresponding to med.L. teste me ipso, teste rege, his testibus, etc., AF. tesmoin...
- b. A sponsor or godparent at baptism. Obs. orig. in Puritan use.
- 6. a. One who is or was present and is able to testify from personal observation; one present as a spectator or auditor. (Cf. EAR-WITNESS, EYE-WITNESS.) Usually with of, occas. to.
- b. In asseverative formulæ, in which a deity or a human being is invoked as one who is cognizant of a fact; as God is my witness, be my witness that... Most often in phr. to call or take to (one's) witness: to call upon or appeal to as one's surety; to swear by.
- c. Referring to, usually introducing, the designation of an authority for a statement. (Cf. 7b.)
- 7. fig. Something that furnishes evidence or proof of the thing or fact mentioned; an evidential mark or sign, a token.
- b. Introducing a name, designation, phrase, or clause denoting a person or thing that furnishes evidence of the fact or exemplifies the statement. Also as witness, and, in early use, witness on. (After L. teste..., F. témoin...)
- c. spec. In textual criticism, a manuscript or an early version which is regarded as evidence of authority for the text. (Usually in pl.)