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Words: Subpoena and Posse

By on March 10, 2013

The words for today are legal terms.

SUBPOENA as we all know is an order to appear in court or to supply documents to the court. It comes from the Latin – SUB – meaning UNDER, and POENA – meaning PENALTY. If one does not comply there can be a penalty imposed. In ancient Roman times the penalty was usually a fine. Roman penalties for crimes varied from torture or crucifixion to exile. A gruesome punishment for parricide (killing of a father, mother or kin) was to place the guilty in a tied sack with a dog, a viper and a rooster and throw the sack into the Tiber river.

The word – POSSE – which we know from the many western movies we have seen is defined as a committee organized by a sheriff to aid in law enforcement . It comes from the Latin words – POSSE COMITATUS- which means POWER GIVEN TO A BODY OF MEN. The Latin word – POSSUM , POSSE, POTUI – means TO BE ABLE. The Latin word – COMITATUS – means AN ASSEMBLY, A CONVENTION, A COUNTY. In medieval times groups such as these were permitted by the king. The words – POTENTIAL and POTENCY- meaning POWER or ABILITY – are also derived from the Latin word – POSSE.