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

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 Deputies said Geran then took his 26-year-old girlfriend, her sister and her mother hostage. Sarah Brookbank,, "Man who led standoff charged with double murder," 27 June 2018 In 2015, he was arrested for beating up his pregnant girlfriend, holding her head under water, threatening to kill her, taking her phone, and holding her hostage., "The BET Awards Used To Lead; Now They're Falling Behind," 25 June 2018 That's likely of little solace to PS4 players who want to take the game on the go with their Switch and who received no previous warning that playing on Sony's system would effectively hold their account hostage to that console for all time. Kyle Orland, Ars Technica, "Sony is locking Fortnite accounts to PS4, and players are mad," 14 June 2018 During her teenage years, Fernandez told the doctor, her uncle tried to rape her and a group of men held her hostage for several days and took turns raping her, according to Miora’s report. Marisa Gerber,, "'Horrendous, inhumane and nothing short of evil': Judge sentences mother to life in prison and her boyfriend to death in Gabriel Fernandez murder case," 7 June 2018 In 2013, Carter was accused of luring a 20-year-old Chalmette woman into his apartment with an offer of marijuana and then raping her and holding her hostage. Marie Simoneaux,, "Man kidnaps 9-year-old girl from West Lake Forest home, rapes her: warrant," 15 May 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



Statistics for hostage

Last Updated

3 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

Comments on hostage

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


playful or foolish behavior

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