cap·​tiv·​i·​ty | \ kap-ˈti-və-tē How to pronounce captivity (audio) \

Definition of captivity

1 : the state of being captive some birds thrive in captivity
2 obsolete : a group of captives

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Examples of captivity in a Sentence

The prisoners were released from captivity. the wildlife refuge raises endangered species in captivity and then releases them into the wild
Recent Examples on the Web Cher and the Loneliest Elephant finds the singer and activist in Islamabad, Pakistan, where an elephant named Kaavan has been cruelly held in captivity for more than 20 years. Rania Aniftos, Billboard, "How to Watch 'Cher & the Loneliest Elephant'," 22 Apr. 2021 Around 16,000 elephants live in captivity today, including 377 in the United States. Rachel Nuwer, Smithsonian Magazine, "How Cher Helped Rescue the World’s Loneliest Elephant," 21 Apr. 2021 Currently, 11 adults and 16 chicks live in captivity. San Diego Union-Tribune, "From the Archives: Last California Condor in the wild was captured in 1987," 20 Apr. 2021 In a press release, the senators cited the 2020 Netflix show that gained great popularity, but also raised questions about the treatment of big cats in captivity. Michelle Stoddart, ABC News, "Alarmed by 'Tiger King,' senators propose ban on private ownership of big cats," 19 Apr. 2021 Laingen — one of three hostages detained, separately from their embassy colleagues, at the Iranian Foreign Ministry — was the highest-ranking official among the 52 Americans held in captivity for 444 days. Emily Langer, Washington Post, "Penelope Laingen, who united nation with yellow ribbons during Iran hostage crisis, dies at 89," 16 Apr. 2021 Most strategies are bred in captivity and then sentenced to death by 1,000 meetings. Dave Macleod, Forbes, "From A Cascade Mindset To A Networked One," 12 Apr. 2021 Someone had etched tick marks onto one of the hospital’s corridors, like an imprisoned soldier counting his days in captivity. ProPublica, "Protect Independent Journalism," 9 Apr. 2021 The story is centered around an Asian elephant named Kavaan, who’d been in captivity in a zoo in Islamabad for nearly 20 years. Jon Blistein, Rolling Stone, "Cher Fights to Save ‘The Loneliest Elephant’ in New Doc Trailer," 8 Apr. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'captivity.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of captivity

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Time Traveler for captivity

Time Traveler

The first known use of captivity was in the 14th century

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Statistics for captivity

Last Updated

28 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Captivity.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for captivity



English Language Learners Definition of captivity

: the state of being kept in a place (such as a prison or a cage) and not being able to leave or be free : the state or condition of being captive


cap·​tiv·​i·​ty | \ kap-ˈti-və-tē How to pronounce captivity (audio) \

Kids Definition of captivity

: the state of being held prisoner : the state of being captive

More from Merriam-Webster on captivity

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for captivity

Nglish: Translation of captivity for Spanish Speakers

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