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 hostage drama played out on the 10th floor of the Oklahoma County Detention Center – the area where the jail’s most difficult-to-manage detainees are housed, the newspaper previously reported. Dom Calicchio, Fox News, "Oklahoma detainees who held officer hostage were upset their drug operation was thwarted, jail boss says," 31 Mar. 2021 On Saturday, Williams was part of a group of inmates who took the officer hostage on the 10th floor of the Oklahoma County Detention Center. Kaelan Deese, Washington Examiner, "Oklahoma police reveal identity of hostage taker at jail," 30 Mar. 2021 When the heroes try to bust up the Smashers’ transporting crates of the serum, Winter Soldier initially thinks Karli’s a hostage. Brian Truitt, USA TODAY, "Erin Kellyman masks up as Marvel's newest antagonist in 'The Falcon and the Winter Soldier'," 29 Mar. 2021 Policies can also help consumers avoid becoming hostage within individual ecosystems, thus contributing to market contestability and competition. CNN, "We need to create a global standard to protect and share data — before it's too late," 29 Mar. 2021 Delon Montrey Lockett faces seven felonies — including attempted homicide and taking a hostage — plus a misdemeanor in the March 22 incident. Bruce Vielmetti, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Man's shooting during standoff endangered children, hostage and police, complaint says," 26 Mar. 2021 Stanley took James-Potts hostage as well as a jail officer and nurse, whose names were redacted from the report, investigators found. Grace Toohey,, "Deputies suspended for botched handcuff, search of armed man who took hostages at Orange jail," 25 Feb. 2021 The Tampa Bay Times reported the sheriff’s office brought in a hostage negotiator who spoke with the elderly man for about 40 minutes., "Deputies shoot 79-year-old Florida man at gas station after threats | Video," 21 Mar. 2021 America’s national security team must rely on a disgraced former guard to save the president after terrorists seize control of the White House, taking the chief of state hostage. Ed Stockly, Los Angeles Times, "Movies on TV this week: ‘My Fair Lady’; ‘Marry Poppins’," 19 Mar. 2021

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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Time Traveler for hostage

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for hostage

Last Updated

5 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Hostage.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 11 Apr. 2021.

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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 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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