prisoner of war

noun phrase

: a person captured in war
especially : a member of the armed forces of a nation who is taken by the enemy during combat

Examples of prisoner of war in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Unlike civilian hostages, soldiers taken captive are considered prisoners of war, a class that is protected but also accepted under international law, including the Geneva Accords. Christopher Maag, New York Times, 16 Feb. 2024 Soldiers who are being held as prisoners of war were interviewed in person in rebel compounds by a Post journalist, beyond the earshot of their captors. Rebecca Tan, Washington Post, 14 Feb. 2024 Russia announced at the time that a Ukrainian missile brought down the jumbo transport jet, which reportedly was carrying 65 Ukrainian prisoners of war for a POW exchange. Katya Soldak, Forbes, 9 Feb. 2024 The infamous train route, which crosses the River Kwai, was built from 1940 to 1943 by prisoners of war taken by the Japanese in World War II. Meagan Drillinger, Travel + Leisure, 4 Feb. 2024 In 1942, the wooden barracks, gas chambers and crematoria of Birkenau were added for the extermination of Europe's Jews, Roma and other nationals, as well as Russian prisoners of war. Czarek Sokolowski The Associated Press, arkansasonline.com, 28 Jan. 2024 Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday claimed that a military transport plane carrying Ukrainian prisoners of war was shot down by Ukraine. Chris Pandolfo, Fox News, 27 Jan. 2024 In 1942, the wooden barracks, gas chambers and crematoria of Birkenau were added for the extermination of Europe’s Jews, Roma and other nationals, as well as Russian prisoners of war. Czarek Sokolowski, Chicago Tribune, 27 Jan. 2024 The use of such systems came under scrutiny Wednesday, after Russia accused Ukraine of shooting down a military transport airplane in nearby Belgorod, which Moscow said was carrying dozens of Ukrainian prisoners of war. Serhii Korolchuk, Washington Post, 25 Jan. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'prisoner of war.' 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

1608, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of prisoner of war was in 1608

Dictionary Entries Near prisoner of war

Cite this Entry

“Prisoner of war.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/prisoner%20of%20war. Accessed 27 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition

prisoner of war

: a member of the armed forces of a nation who has been captured by the enemy

Legal Definition

prisoner of war

: a person captured in war
especially : a member of the armed forces of a nation who is taken by the enemy during combat

Note: Under the Third Geneva Convention, a person is a prisoner of war if he or she falls in one of the following categories: 1) a member of the armed forces of a party to the conflict or of a militia or volunteer corps that is part of the armed forces; 2) a member of another militia or volunteer corps who is a lawful combatant; 3) a member of regular armed forces who profess allegiance to a government or authority not recognized by his or her captor; 4) a person who accompanies the armed forces but is not a member of it provided they have proper authority to accompany it; 5) members of the merchant marine and crews of civil aircraft who do not fall under more favorable designations under international law; and 6) inhabitants of territory facing approach of the enemy who spontaneously resist invasion and carry arms openly and respect the laws of war. Prisoners of war are entitled to certain rights (as to humane treatment) under the Convention. Two further categories of people entitled to treatment as prisoners of war are 1) persons belonging or having belonged to the armed forces of an occupied country who were liberated but have been confined especially when they have tried to rejoin the armed forces or have not complied with a summons attempting to confine them; and 2) persons falling under any of the categories of those entitled to treatment as prisoners of war who are received by neutral countries that are required to confine them by international law, with certain exceptions specified in the Convention.

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