pris·​on·​er | \ ˈpriz-nər How to pronounce prisoner (audio) , ˈpri-zᵊn-ər\

Definition of prisoner

1 : a person deprived of liberty and kept under involuntary restraint, confinement, or custody especially : one on trial or in prison
2 : someone restrained as if in prison a prisoner of her own conscience

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Synonyms & Antonyms for prisoner


captive, capture, internee



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Examples of prisoner in a Sentence

He was captured by rebel forces and kept as their prisoner for several months before they set him free. The families were held prisoner for four days.

Recent Examples on the Web

Newsletter Sign-up Iran most recently released American political prisoners in 2016, including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, after the U.S. and five world powers reached a nuclear pact a year earlier. WSJ, "U.S. Navy Veteran Detained in Iran for Months on ‘Private Complaint’," 25 Jan. 2019 The president also hinted at the possible release of three American prisoners. Adam Shaw, Fox News, "Pompeo arrives in North Korea to prepare for meeting with Kim Jong Un," 2 Oct. 2018 At the time, Amnesty International listed him as a prisoner of conscience and campaigned for his release. The Economist, "Emmanuel Macron pays tribute to Fela Kuti, a Nigerian musician," 5 July 2018 What's being described by the president and others sounds more like a prison to me, with the teachers as armed guards and the students as prisoners. Victoria Cheyne, Houston Chronicle, "Tips for preventing lightning-related deaths and injuries this July 4th," 3 July 2018 Pompeo made two surprise trips to Pyongyang and brought back three freed American prisoners. Brian Bennett, Time, "This Is What Trump’s Impulsive Diplomacy Looks Like," 14 June 2018 North Korea has made some very public goodwill gestures, inviting foreign journalists to witness the dismantling of some nuclear infrastructure and releasing three US prisoners. Nicole Gaouette, CNN, "Trump's canceled North Korea summit could mean pitfalls ahead," 25 May 2018 In a gesture that appeared to set the stage for a landmark summit between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, North Korea released three American prisoners into the custody of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during his visit here Wednesday. Anchorage Daily News, "North Korea frees 3 American prisoners," 10 May 2018 So did Giuliani's proclamation that three American prisoners soon would be released from North Korea, a development the White House had not confirmed. The Washington Post,, "As a willing warrior for Trump, Sarah Huckabee Sanders struggles to maintain credibility," 5 May 2018

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

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Statistics for prisoner

Last Updated

15 Apr 2019

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The first known use of prisoner was in the 14th century

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English Language Learners Definition of prisoner

: a person who is kept in a prison
: a person who has been captured and is being kept somewhere


pris·​on·​er | \ ˈpri-zᵊn-ər How to pronounce prisoner (audio) , ˈpriz-nər\

Kids Definition of prisoner

: a person who has been captured or locked up



Legal Definition of prisoner

: a person deprived of liberty and kept under involuntary restraint, confinement, or custody especially : one under arrest, awaiting trial, on trial, or serving a prison sentence

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More from Merriam-Webster on prisoner

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for prisoner

Spanish Central: Translation of prisoner

Nglish: Translation of prisoner for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of prisoner for Arabic Speakers

Comments on prisoner

What made you want to look up prisoner? 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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