First attested with this spelling in 1623 C.E., from earlier subpena, from Middle English sub pena, from Medieval Latin: sub (“under”) and poena (“penalty”), the beginning of the original subpoena used in the Court of Chancery.
- (law, historical) A writ requiring a defendant to appear in court to answer a plaintiff's claim.
- (law) A writ requiring someone to appear in court to give testimony.
The most common plural form is subpoenas. Subpoenae is a hypercorrection as the word is not derived from a Latin noun *subpœna, *subpœnæ, but from the Latin phrase sub pœna, and therefore has no Latin plural.
- ^ 2013 May 14, Bryan Garner, “LawProse Lesson #118 | LawProse”, in LawProse, retrieved 2022-01-02:
- Why isn’t the plural *subpoenae duces tecum? Subpoena is a singular English noun — it was never a Latin noun. Rather, the English word subpoena derived from the Latin phrase sub poena, meaning “under penalty” or “under pain.” The Oxford English Dictionary dates subpoena from the late 15th century. And the plural subpoenas appears in English law as early as 1509 in the title of a statute “for Subpoenas and Privy Seals.” That’s the only plural until the early 19th century when *subpoenae first appeared — in a misquotation from Coke’s Institutes (Coke actually wrote sub poena). So the false Latin plural *subpoenae is a hypercorrection and, in fact, not a Latin word at all.
subpoena m (plural subpoenas)
- (Canadian and US law) subpoena