Define: Witness

UK Accounting Glossary

Definition: Witness

Quick Summary of Witness

A witness is a person who is called to testify in a court case about what they have seen or heard. Their testimony is used as evidence for either the defense or the prosecution. Witnesses are critical to personal injury claims because they can provide evidence and bolster the claim of the plaintiff. Many times the plaintiff will need witnesses to provide evidence that the suing party was not at fault, liable or responsible for causing the accident that injured him or her. For example, a witness can recount car positions, speeds of the cars, weather conditions, environments and settings, and party statements made right after accidents.

What is the dictionary definition of Witness?

Dictionary Definition

A person who sees an event, typically a crime or accident, take place.

  1. uncountable Attestation of a fact or event; testimony.
  2. countable One who sees or has personal knowledge of something.
  3. countable Someone called to give evidence in a court.


Full Definition of Witness

A witness is a person called in a judicial or similar proceeding to give testimony under oath. He may appear voluntarily or be required to appear by subpoena.

A witness is a person who is present at some transactions and signs the document evidencing it. In most jurisdictions, a certain number of witnesses are necessary for a valid will, or valid ceremonial marriage. Witness to signatures to deeds and similar papers are generally not legally necessary but are helpful in providing the signature if its genuineness is attracted.

A witness is a person who on oath or solemn affirmation gives evidence in any cause or matter. A witness must attend in court according to the requirement of his subpoena. If he has not been paid his lawful expenses, he may refuse to be sworn; but if he is once sworn, he must give his evidence. A witness is not obliged to answer any question which tends to criminate him. On the application of either party, all the witness on both sides are ordered to leave the court until called; and each is only called when his evidence is actually required. If a witness who has been ordered out of court remains, it is contempt, if willful, and may be treated as such; but his evidence is not rejected. Each witness remains in court after he has given his evidence, and is expected not to communicate with those outside. But every party to the cause is entitled to be present throughout, though he is about to give evidence. A witness cannot leave the precincts of the court without leave after the evidence of his side is over, nor even when the judge has begun to sum up, for any witness may at the discretion of the judge be recalled at any time before the verdict is given.

A distinction is taken between the competency and the credibility of witnesses, the former determining absolutely the admission or rejection of their evidence, the latter going to corroborate or to its truthfulness.

A witness can be critical in many states to help the court determine what percentage the plaintiff may have been at fault. In the majority of states, an injured claimant’s compensation is lowered in proportion to the percentage of his liability, and in some states, if the plaintiff was negligent at all they may not be allowed to recover compensation.

Expert witnesses can also be used to discuss complicated testimony. For instance, in a medical malpractice case, an expert doctor could testify whether another doctor’s actions were negligent and whether they breached their professional standard of care.


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):
Witness. Payroll & Accounting Heaven Ltd. April 04, 2020
Chicago Manual of Style (CMS):
Witness. Payroll & Accounting Heaven Ltd. (accessed: April 04, 2020).
American Psychological Association (APA):
Witness. Retrieved April 04, 2020, from website:

Definition Sources

Definitions for Witness 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: 18th March 2020.