Summons and summonses

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Summons is a singular noun meaning a call by an authority to appear or to do something. It’s most often used in legal contexts for notice summoning a defendant or witness to appear in court. Despite the s at the end, summons functions like any other singular noun—for example:

Evansville police said they will see that a court summons is issued for a man who they say was too drunk to go to jail early Sunday. [Evansville Courier & Press]

Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi will defy a summons by prosecutors investigating allegations he had sex with an underage prostitute … []

Summonses may sound funny, but it is the plural of the singular noun summons. For example, these writers use it correctly:

A total of 7,917 summonses were issued for various traffic offences. [Bernama]

It turns out their summonses cited the wrong section of the Parks Department code … [New York Post]

Summons can also function as a verb. This leads to other funny-sounding words like summonsed and summonsing, which are perfectly good—for example:

She has been summonsed to appear at the Shepparton Magistrates Court on February 14. [Herald Sun]

And how can this apparent failure to properly issue summonses to killer motorists be squared with the summonsing of a cyclist turning right on red into a car-free Central Park at 5th Avenue and 90th Street earlier this month? [Streetsblog]

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