I was reading an article about the recent New York prison break.

I came across the word subpoenaed , which is new for me.

"Investigators have also subpoenaed her cell phone records and found that she spoke with Matt's daughter at least once, Wylie said."

I don't see in dictionaries that it is used for things. Is it correctly used in the article?

  • 1
    @Glorfindel The definition you cited does mention things: "to order someone to appear in court to give evidence : to issue a subpoena to (someone) or for (something)".
    – JMB
    Jun 18, 2015 at 12:57
  • You should add to your question a dictionary link and quote the definitions that are causing confusion.
    – user3169
    Jun 18, 2015 at 19:14
  • There are many other examples of English nouns being used as verbs that may or may not be in dictionaries; however, since most dictionaries approach the language from a descriptivist point of view, it's usually only a matter of time until these new usages are added. Recent examples I've seen: "mentored", "manifested", "Googled", etc. Jun 18, 2015 at 21:51

2 Answers 2


Subpoena means ordered to appear before a court.

People can be subpoenaed for testimony, or things such as documents can be subpoenaed for evidence.

  • Yep. As a medical professional in the USA, I have to notify new patients that not only can I be subpoenaed, so can my records. Jun 18, 2015 at 21:12

In the US, a subpoena is a legally-enforceable demand for certain kinds of compliance. Not all of these are answerable directly to a court. For instance, a creditor who holds a judgment against a debtor may get an information subpoena to compel third parties (like banks) to disclose information about the debtor that will help the creditor collect.

There are two kinds of subpoena answerable to a court -- (1) a subpoena ad testificandum, i.e., a demand that someone show up in court to give testimony and (2) a subpoena duces tecum (literally "bring it with you"), which demands that someone show up in court to deliver evidence, e.g, documents. For the second type, it's common to say that the documents themselves were subpoenaed, but the subpoena is always served on the person who's their custodian.

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