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.
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Recent Examples on the Web

The Air Force made the decision to buy a fleet of long-range special operations transports after Operation Eagle Claw, the 1980 failed attempt to rescue American hostages from Iran. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "Watch The Harrowing Way A Osprey Refuels in Midair," 13 Mar. 2019 Hallman was responding to a call from local deputies, who were chasing an armed man who was allegedly holding a child hostage. Madeline Farber, Fox News, "Officers killed in the line of duty in 2018," 19 Sep. 2018 This would allow a SWAT team, for example, to detonate one on a passenger jet in close proximity to hostages with minimal chance of death or injury. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "Rectangular, Computerized Grenade Puts a New Spin on the Flashbang," 28 Feb. 2019 Azhar was released from custody in India in 1999, in exchange for more than 150 hostages from a hijacked Indian Airlines flight. Munir Ahmed, The Seattle Times, "Pakistani PM willing to talk but warns India not to attack," 20 Feb. 2019 But too few have access because internet service monopolies have held universal internet hostage to their own profits. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, "A Public Option for the Internet," 8 May 2018 Tony Kiritsis, the profane, frenetic, shotgun-wielding hostage taker. Will Higgins, Indianapolis Star, "Gardener, hostage-taker: The unlikely friendship of Dick Crum and Tony Kiritsis," 13 Feb. 2018 Over the course of a frightening two hours, the gunman took hostages and barricaded himself in the supermarket as police surrounded the building outside. Rachel Wolfe, Vox, "Vox Sentences: A wild omnibus ride," 24 Mar. 2018 Four people are dead after a gunman took hostages at a Veterans home on Friday in Napa County, California, PEOPLE confirms. Alexia Fernandez,, "3 Hostages and Gunman Dead After 8-Hour Standoff at a California Veterans Home," 10 Mar. 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 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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hostage crisis



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Last Updated

7 Apr 2019

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Time Traveler for hostage

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

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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 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

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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).


an act or instance of returning to life

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