pris·on·er | \ˈpriz-nər, 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

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms & Antonyms for prisoner


captive, capture, internee



Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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 Justice Department says only 10 percent of U.S. prisoners are housed in the federal system (the rest being in the state or local systems). Meg Kelly, Washington Post, "Fact-checking President Trump’s numbers on the ‘human toll of illegal immigration’," 6 July 2018 Palestinian officials say that many of the prisoners or the dead were not involved in attacking Israelis, and that stopping the payments would anger many Palestinians. Isabel Kershner, New York Times, "Israel Penalizes Palestinians for Payments to Prisoners and ‘Martyrs’," 3 July 2018 As a medical student I was given the task to examine several of these prisoners. Denise Gellene,, "Arvid Carlsson, 95; discovered a treatment for Parkinson’s," 2 July 2018 Most of the other prisoners didn’t escape or hide in the bunker., "Orange Is The New Black," 29 June 2018 The new agreement also calls for the opening of corridors for humanitarian aid, the release of prisoners and the withdrawal of forces. Sam Mednick, Fox News, "South Sudan's warring sides agree to permanent cease-fire," 28 June 2018 And apart from releasing a trio of US prisoners and staging what most experts believe is a public relations stunt by dismantling a nuclear test site, Kim has offered no meaningful concessions. Stephen Collinson, CNN, "History beckons for Trump and Kim," 11 June 2018 But Mr Salvini appears to have believed a rumour that the increase was due to an amnesty (in reality, an annual pardon that led to the release of only around 400 prisoners). The Economist, "Italy’s new government wants to deport 500,000 people," 7 June 2018 Male prison guards won't be allowed to do pat-downs and cavity searches of female prisoners unless there is an immediate risk and a female correctional officer is not available. Julia O'donoghue,, "Louisiana prisoners will no longer have to pay for tampons," 26 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.

See More

First Known Use of prisoner

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about prisoner

Statistics for prisoner

Last Updated

14 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for prisoner

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for prisoner



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, 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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


a generally accepted meaning of a word

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Great Scrabble Words—A Quiz

  • scrabble-tiles-that-read-scrabble-quiz
  • Which of the following Q-without-U words means the number five in cards or dice?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Dictionary Devil

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!