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

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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

As a measure of good faith, a prisoner exchange is also part of the Stockholm agreement. Farnaz Fassihi, WSJ, "U.N. Security Council Votes to Send Monitors to Yemen," 16 Jan. 2019 In 2011, Kennedy wrote a 5-4 decision upholding a lower court order mandating that California release tens of thousands of prisoners to reduce overcrowding, which the state itself admitted was unconstitutional. Dylan Matthews, Vox, "America under Brett Kavanaugh," 11 July 2018 Sam said Keebler had been a model prisoner since his arrest after trying to bomb a Bureau of Land Management cabin in 2016. Julian Hattem, The Seattle Times, "Militia leader who tried to bomb federal cabin released," 9 July 2018 Since his arrest and subsequent conviction for the killing of Cynthia Mitchell 26 years ago, Mark Downey has been a model prisoner and turned his life around, his lawyers told a Hartford judge on Tuesday. David Owens,, "Judge Shaves Four Years Off Simsbury Man's 50-Year Sentence For Murder," 24 Apr. 2018 The deal hashed out in Sweden also included a prisoner swap, a deal on how port revenues are handled and a humanitarian corridor in Taiz province, attempting to lay the groundwork for a broader agreement after further talks next year. Asa Fitch, WSJ, "Fragile Yemen Cease-Fire Takes Hold After U.S. Push," 18 Dec. 2018 On some occasions, like in 2012, the conversations lingered only on the specific item of a prisoner swap. Alex Ward, Vox, "Why some experts are cautiously optimistic about peace talks with the Taliban," 3 Aug. 2018 United Nations members have recommended that Cuba establish an independent national human rights institution, immediately release prisoners of conscience and end the harassment of human rights activists. Mimi Whitefield, miamiherald, "U.N. members offer 339 suggestions on how Cuba can improve human rights record | Miami Herald," 25 May 2018 Is the Trump Administration open to a prisoner swap? CBS News, "Full transcript: Vice President Mike Pence on "CBS This Morning"," 10 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

21 Jan 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, 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).


to gather or build up little by little

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