hos·​tage | \ ˈhä-stij How to pronounce hostage (audio) \

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.
Recent Examples on the Web That’s more than $150,000 a year to prevent tragedies like the deadly attack on Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue in 2018 or the hostage-taking at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, in January. Howard Husock, WSJ, 19 May 2022 Kotey pleaded guilty to a total of eight U.S. counts, including four counts of hostage-taking resulting in a death, conspiracy and providing material to support terrorists. Emily Sacia, The Arizona Republic, 2 May 2022 The jury in Alexandria, Virginia, found Elsheikh guilty on eight charges, including four counts of hostage taking resulting in death, murder conspiracy and conspiracy to provide material support to a terrorist organization. Gillian Morley, CBS News, 14 Apr. 2022 Jurors in Virginia convicted El Shafee Elsheikh on all four counts of hostage-taking and all four counts of conspiracy, Karolina Foote—a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Virginia—confirmed to Forbes. Joe Walsh, Forbes, 14 Apr. 2022 As word of the hostage-taking spread, hundreds of law-enforcement officers converged on the D.M.R. Rachel Monroe, The New Yorker, 12 Apr. 2022 The hostage-taking in Texas came just over three years after America's deadliest antisemitic attack, when a gunman killed 11 worshippers from three congregations meeting at Pittsburg's Tree of Life synagogue. Jamie Stengle, ajc, 8 Apr. 2022 The hostage-taking in Texas came just over three years after America’s deadliest antisemitic attack, when a gunman killed 11 worshippers from three congregations meeting at Pittsburgh's Tree of Life synagogue. Fox News, 8 Apr. 2022 Tate, 40, of Hopkinsville, Ky., was arrested that afternoon at a home in nearby Carlyle where Tate allegedly committed a home invasion and took the homeowner hostage. Washington Post, 22 Apr. 2022 See More

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.

First Known Use of hostage

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

History and Etymology for hostage

Middle English hostage, ostage, borrowed from Anglo-French, "lodging, residence, custody of a person held as security against fulfillment of an agreement, the person so held," from hoste "guest, host" + -age -age — more at host entry 3

Note: The peculiar sense shift apparently arose from the Old French use of hostage in verbal phrases such as prendre en hostage "to take in residence, lodge" in reference to the lodging of a person held as surety; the import of hostage was then transferred to the status of such a person, and finally to the actual person.

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Time Traveler for hostage

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

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hostage crisis

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Last Updated

23 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Hostage.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for hostage


hos·​tage | \ ˈhä-stij How to pronounce hostage (audio) \

Kids Definition of hostage

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

More from Merriam-Webster on hostage

Nglish: Translation of hostage for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of hostage for Arabic Speakers


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