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noun ran·som \ˈran(t)-səm\

Simple Definition of ransom

  • : money that is paid in order to free someone who has been captured or kidnapped

Full Definition of ransom

  1. 1 :  a consideration paid or demanded for the release of someone or something from captivity

  2. 2 :  the act of ransoming

Examples of ransom

  1. The kidnappers demanded a ransom of one million dollars.

  2. The family is willing to pay ransom for his release.

  3. The ransom note explained the terms under which she would be released.

Origin of ransom

Middle English ransoun, from Anglo-French rançun, from Latin redemption-, redemptio — more at redemption

First Known Use: 13th century



verb ran·som

Simple Definition of ransom

  • : to pay money in order to free (a person who has been captured or kidnapped)

Full Definition of ransom

  1. transitive verb
  2. 1 :  to deliver especially from sin or its penalty

  3. 2 :  to free from captivity or punishment by paying a price

ran·som·er noun

Examples of ransom

  1. He was held captive for a week before he was ransomed and returned to his family.

  2. <the prince emptied the treasury to ransom his son from the kidnappers>

14th Century

First Known Use of ransom

14th century

Synonym Discussion of ransom

rescue, deliver, redeem, ransom, reclaim, save mean to set free from confinement or danger. rescue implies freeing from imminent danger by prompt or vigorous action <rescued the crew of a sinking ship>. deliver implies release usually of a person from confinement, temptation, slavery, or suffering <delivered his people from bondage>. redeem implies releasing from bondage or penalties by giving what is demanded or necessary <job training designed to redeem school dropouts from chronic unemployment>. ransom specifically applies to buying out of captivity <tried to ransom the kidnap victim>. reclaim suggests a bringing back to a former state or condition of someone or something abandoned or debased <reclaimed long-abandoned farms>. save may replace any of the foregoing terms; it may further imply a preserving or maintaining for usefulness or continued existence <an operation that saved my life>.


biographical name Ran·som \ˈran(t)-səm\

Definition of Ransom

  1. John Crowe 1888–1974 Am. educ. & poet

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up ransom? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


February 8, 2016

to clear from accusation or blame

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