Business, Legal & Accounting Glossary

Definition: Cross-Examination

Quick Summary of Cross-Examination

The interrogating or questioning of a witness by the party against whom he or she has been called and examined. See examination.

At trial, the opportunity to question any witness, including your opponent, who testifies against you on direct examination. The opportunity to cross-examine usually occurs as soon as a witness completes her direct testimony — often the opposing lawyer or party, or sometimes the judge, signals that it is time to begin cross-examination by saying, “Your witness.” Typically, there are two important reasons to engage in cross-examination: to attempt to get the witness to say something helpful to your side, or to cast doubt on (impeach) the witness by getting her to admit something that reduces her credibility — for example, that her eyesight is so poor that she may not have seen an event clearly.

What is the dictionary definition of Cross-Examination?

Dictionary Definition

n. the opportunity for the attorney (or an unrepresented party) to ask questions in court of a witness who has testified in a trial on behalf of the opposing party. The questions on cross-examination are limited to the subjects covered in the direct examination of the witness, but importantly, the attorney may ask leading questions, in which he/she is allowed to suggest answers or put words in the witness’s mouth. (For example, “Isn’t it true that you told Mrs. Jones she had done nothing wrong?” which is leading, as compared to “Did you say anything to Mrs. Jones?”) A strong cross-examination (often called just “cross” by lawyers and judges) can force contradictions, expressions of doubts or even complete obliteration of a witness’s prior carefully rehearsed testimony. On the other hand, repetition of a witness’ s story, vehemently defended, can strengthen his/her credibility.

Full Definition of Cross-Examination

Questioning of a Witness by the side other than the one which called that witness. In general, counsel may ask any question of a witness during cross-examination that is relevant to the case. Deliberate attempts to damage the credibility of the witness are allowed. However, there are certain restrictions.

  • In sexual offences, the defence is not allowed to examine in a way that attempts merely to blacken the character of the victim (see: Cross-examination of victims of sexual offences).
  • While it is generally permissible to challenge the witness’s version of events, the rule of Finality of collateral answers prevents counsel pursuing issues not directly relevant to the case.

Cite Term

To help you cite our definitions in your bibliography, here is the proper citation layout for the three major formatting styles, with all of the relevant information filled in.

Page URL
Modern Language Association (MLA):
Cross-Examination. Payroll & Accounting Heaven Ltd. September 28, 2021
Chicago Manual of Style (CMS):
Cross-Examination. Payroll & Accounting Heaven Ltd. (accessed: September 28, 2021).
American Psychological Association (APA):
Cross-Examination. Retrieved September 28, 2021, from website:

Definition Sources

Definitions for Cross-Examination are sourced/syndicated and enhanced from:

  • A Dictionary of Economics (Oxford Quick Reference)
  • Oxford Dictionary Of Accounting
  • Oxford Dictionary Of Business & Management

This glossary post was last updated: 27th April, 2020 | 3 Views.