I have just seen this usage:

... you have been summonsed ...

My immediate reaction was one of (let's say) surprise; I would have thought the correct form was:

... you have been summoned ...

Is there, in fact, a verb "to summons", and, if so, where did it come from?


Summons means, in the OED's definition, ‘to cite before a court or a judge or magistrate; to take out a summons against’ and is first recorded in that sense in 1780. It has a similar etymology to summon and was once used as an alternative to it.


If you summons a person, then someone has

served a summons

on or to them.

When they serve (meaning 11b here) the summons, the other person has been served...so serve has two senses.

Summons "authoritative call to be at a certain place for a certain purpose" is late 13c., from O.Fr. sumunse, noun use of fem. pp. of somondre.

  • Yes, Jeff, although my feeling is that to say "you have been summonsed" feels like it was said by the same person who might have said "you have been serviced" – Brent.Longborough Jan 25 '12 at 21:37
  • I would guess that "you have been served" is a way to avoid having to pronounce "summonsed", though that is the correct past participle. Also, usage may differ by jurisdiction; I am in US. And I wouldn't say "you have been serviced", except to a mare or a piece of equipment :). – JeffSahol Jan 25 '12 at 21:41

Summons is a verb meaning to order someone to appear in court, a meaning it shares with summon. The past tense would be summonsed and summoned respectively.

  • Do you know when it first appeared? To me, it feels like somebody illiterate has subverted the OED... – Brent.Longborough Jan 25 '12 at 21:35
  • @Brent.Longborough: See my answer. The form 'summonsed' is found in Charles Dickens's 'Martin Chuzzlewit': 'When Gamp was summonsed to his long home . . .' – Barrie England Jan 25 '12 at 21:46
  • Here's a 1767 instance of the "non-judicial" use of summonsed. There are plenty of written instances before 1800 which are clearly in the judicial sense, so it obviously caught on fairly quickly. Non-judicial usages seem to tail off by the mid-1800s. I certainly don't think they're synonyms today. – FumbleFingers Jan 25 '12 at 23:08
  • 1
    oic - well since you've just changed the text to reflect that, I'll re-reverse the vote! I quite agree that whereas today summonsed is only really used in the judicial context, summoned can be used in all, including that. – FumbleFingers Jan 25 '12 at 23:41

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