pris·​on·​er ˈpriz-nər How to pronounce prisoner (audio)
: a person deprived of liberty and kept under involuntary restraint, confinement, or custody
especially : one on trial or in prison
: someone restrained as if in prison
a prisoner of her own conscience

see also take-no-prisoners, take no prisoners

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 The association filed a petition on behalf of the prisoners to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, an OAS group. Nora Gámez Torres, Miami Herald, 4 Apr. 2024 So in 2018, Stockton changed the pre-recorded greeting for outgoing prisoner calls to family and friends. Nate Gartrell, The Mercury News, 2 Apr. 2024 Nationwide, video-calling rates for prisoners are much higher than regular phone calls for inmates, according to the Prison Policy Initiative, a Massachusetts nonprofit. Ian Shapira, Washington Post, 31 Mar. 2024 Recent public comments from President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia about a possible prisoner swap could be a reason for some optimism, said Jay Conti, general counsel at Dow Jones, the parent company of The Journal. Katie Robertson, New York Times, 29 Mar. 2024 Since his election, the pope has taken this ceremony out of Vatican territory and celebrated by washing the feet of prisoners, refugees and the disabled. Christopher Lamb, CNN, 28 Mar. 2024 Fans of Vonnegut know that Slaughterhouse-Five is not even the original title of the book, but was selected in reference to where Vonnegut and other allies were kept as prisoners in Dresden. Katie Wiseman, The Indianapolis Star, 27 Mar. 2024 On one mission trip in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, Craig visited a prison and asked to talk face-to-face with one prisoner put into solitary confinement because of bloody fights with cellmates. Linda McIntosh, San Diego Union-Tribune, 24 Mar. 2024 Stahl also talks with longtime Kremlin critic Gary Kasparov about how Russian President Vladimir Putin is using prisoners as pawns on his geopolitical chessboard against the West. David Morgan, CBS News, 22 Mar. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'prisoner.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near prisoner

Cite this Entry

“Prisoner.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


pris·​on·​er ˈpriz-nər How to pronounce prisoner (audio)
: a person who has been captured or locked up

Legal Definition


: 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

More from Merriam-Webster on prisoner

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