hos·​tage | \ˈhä-stij \

Definition of hostage 

1a : a person held by one party in a conflict as a pledge pending the fulfillment of an agreement

b : a person taken by force to secure the taker's demands

2 : one that is involuntarily controlled by an outside influence

Examples of hostage in a Sentence

The terrorists demanded a plane and a pilot in exchange for the hostages. The hostage crisis is now entering its second week. The passengers were taken hostage. They were held hostage for several days.
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Recent Examples on the Web

The hostage takers are never seen or heard, communicating only via a few cryptic emails. Soren Andersen, The Seattle Times, "‘Viper Club’: Susan Sarandon brings grace, heartbreaking power to hostage drama," 30 Oct. 2018 The Eyes of My Mother (2016) A girl, a hostage, and an urge to poke and prod human flesh. Julie Kosin, Harper's BAZAAR, "The 28 Best Halloween Movies on Netflix," 11 Oct. 2018 In the end, 10 hostages and 29 prisoners were killed during the Attica prison riot. Shammara Lawrence, Teen Vogue, "The Attica Prison Riot in 1971 Serves as a Reminder of the Dangers of a Failing Prison System," 13 Sep. 2018 His lot, says Mr Hu, is to remain in China as a hostage, to ensure that Ms Liu minds her tongue in exile. The Economist, "China frees the widow of a Nobel peace-prize winner," 11 July 2018 Behind her, fellow hostages in floor-length robes watched stone-faced as Dorcas urged parents to press the Nigerian government to free terrorist fighters in exchange for the girls' release. Stephanie Busari, CNN, "Mother of missing Chibok girl: Remember my daughter on her 20th birthday," 8 June 2018 But over the last decade, the department has also seen an officer arrested on charges of holding his wife hostage, a troubled officer sued for excessive force and another officer charged with beating a suspect. Charles Rabin, Jay Weaver And David Ovalle, miamiherald, "The chief wanted perfect stats, so cops were told to pin crimes on blacks, probe found," 12 July 2018 Polk County deputies remained in a standoff Saturday with an armed and suicidal man who is holding his young daughter hostage. Michael Williams,, "Standoff with armed, suicidal man holding young daughter hostage continues in Polk County," 8 July 2018 For 40 minutes, authorities say, three masked home invaders held a father, a mother and their two small children hostage. Kristine Phillips, Washington Post, "‘Evil’ home invaders held a child under hot water to force his dad to give them money, police say," 27 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'hostage.' 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 hostage

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for hostage

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from hoste

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Dictionary Entries near hostage





hostage crisis



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Last Updated

17 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for hostage

The first known use of hostage was in the 13th century

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More Definitions for hostage



English Language Learners Definition of hostage

: a person who is captured by someone who demands that certain things be done before the captured person is freed


hos·​tage | \ˈhä-stij \

Kids Definition of hostage

: a person who is captured by someone who demands that certain things be done before the captured person is freed

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More from Merriam-Webster on hostage

Spanish Central: Translation of hostage

Nglish: Translation of hostage for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of hostage for Arabic Speakers

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a private place of worship

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