ran·​som | \ˈran(t)-səm \

Definition of ransom 

(Entry 1 of 3)

1 : a consideration paid or demanded for the release of someone or something from captivity

2 : the act of ransoming


ransomed; ransoming; ransoms

Definition of ransom (Entry 2 of 3)

transitive verb

1 : to deliver especially from sin or its penalty

2 : to free from captivity or punishment by paying a price


biographical name
Ran·​som | \ˈran(t)-səm \

Definition of Ransom (Entry 3 of 3)

John Crowe 1888–1974 American educator and poet

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Other Words from ransom


ransomer noun

Synonyms for ransom

Synonyms: Verb


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Choose the Right Synonym for ransom


rescue, deliver, redeem, ransom, reclaim, save mean to set free from confinement or danger. rescue implies freeing from imminent danger by prompt or vigorous action. rescued the crew of a sinking ship deliver implies release usually of a person from confinement, temptation, slavery, or suffering. delivered his people from bondage redeem implies releasing from bondage or penalties by giving what is demanded or necessary. job training designed to redeem school dropouts from chronic unemployment ransom specifically applies to buying out of captivity. tried to ransom the kidnap victim reclaim suggests a bringing back to a former state or condition of someone or something abandoned or debased. reclaimed long-abandoned farms save may replace any of the foregoing terms; it may further imply a preserving or maintaining for usefulness or continued existence. an operation that saved my life

Examples of ransom in a Sentence


The kidnappers demanded a ransom of one million dollars. The family is willing to pay ransom for his release. The ransom note explained the terms under which she would be released.


He was held captive for a week before he was ransomed and returned to his family. the prince emptied the treasury to ransom his son from the kidnappers
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Mexican cartels have also kidnapped Central Americans en masse, demanding ransom money from any family members in the United States. Ioan Grillo/tenosique, Time, "‘There Is No Way We Can Turn Back.’ Why Thousands of Refugees Will Keep Coming to America Despite Trump’s Crackdown," 21 June 2018 After the plane took off again, ordered to head to Mexico City, the hijacker parachuted out of the aircraft with the ransom money and disappeared. Ann Zaniewski, Detroit Free Press, "D.B. Cooper mystery solved? Book publisher promises ID of skyjacker," 16 May 2018 Abducting people and demanding ransom money is one way to do that. Rory Smith, Vox, "Hundreds of people in Mexico are kidnapped every year. And the problem’s getting worse.," 11 May 2018 Veronica knows where the $1 million bounty came from (her St. Clair ransom money) and is furious with her parents. refinery29.com, "Riverdale Season 2, Episode 21 Recap: "Judgment Night"," 10 May 2018 Relatives of the two women reported to authorities that kidnappers were demanding ransom money for their release. Tony Rizzo, kansascity, "Women rescued in Missouri after kidnapping, rape ordeal that began in Mexico | The Kansas City Star," 1 May 2018 Shukrullah sold his family’s home to raise the ransom money. Rod Nordland, New York Times, "There Are No Chickens on Chicken Street. Now There Are No Customers Either.," 22 Apr. 2018 The teen disappeared from his home in Rome and was held for six months while the senior Getty, one of the world's richest men, refused to pay the ransom money. Lorraine Ali, latimes.com, ""Trust:" The Getty family gets their own FX series," 24 Mar. 2018 Some of the ransom money was discovered years later near the Columbia River, but a body hasn’t been found. Douglas Perry, OregonLive.com, "As new evidence upends D.B. Cooper case, the (un)usual suspects continue to fuel the legend," 10 Jan. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The police officers who kidnapped, ransomed and killed Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo at the police headquarters Camp Crane in October 2016 have yet to be sentenced. Time, "A New Netflix Series Tells the Story of the Philippines' Drug War. But Its Critics Are Condemning Amo as Propaganda," 30 Apr. 2018 This financial ransoming ultimately left Haiti indebted to French and American banks until after World War II. Dana Snitzky, Longreads, "Is This the Most Crowded Island in the World? (And Why That Question Matters)," 20 Feb. 2018 They were held for five days until their families raised about $4,000 to ransom each of them. Michael Sangiacomo, cleveland.com, "Norwalk woman arrives in lawless Nuevo Laredo after deportation," 12 Dec. 2017 Usually, an express kidnapping entails about 48 hours in captivity before the victim is ransomed back to their family for $5,000-$10,000. Christian Borys, Longreads, "You Can See the Battle Scars," 28 Sep. 2017 The buyers stand to make even more by extracting credit card info, ransoming accounts, and so on. Jacob Brogan, Slate Magazine, "Welcome to Our Cybersecurity Self-Defense Class," 1 Feb. 2017 On the agenda was bitcoin -- the virtual currency demanded by extortionists who had held to ransom the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, along with nuclear power stations and oil companies across Europe, America and Asia. Archana Chaudhary, Bloomberg.com, "With Attacks Soaring, India Races to Regulate Cryptocurrencies," 21 Aug. 2017 Mr. Braziller donated proceeds from the sale of 1,200 copies to ransom the work. Robert D. Mcfadden, New York Times, "George Braziller, Publisher of Fresh Literary Voices, Dies at 101," 17 Mar. 2017

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


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for ransom


Middle English ransoun, from Anglo-French rançun, from Latin redemption-, redemptio — more at redemption

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Learn More about ransom

Dictionary Entries near ransom







ransom bill

Statistics for ransom

Last Updated

1 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for ransom

The first known use of ransom was in the 13th century

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More Definitions for ransom



English Language Learners Definition of ransom

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: money that is paid in order to free someone who has been captured or kidnapped



English Language Learners Definition of ransom (Entry 2 of 2)

: to pay money in order to free (a person who has been captured or kidnapped)


ran·​som | \ˈran-səm \

Kids Definition of ransom

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : something paid or demanded for the freedom of a captured person

2 : the act of freeing from captivity by paying a price


ransomed; ransoming

Kids Definition of ransom (Entry 2 of 2)

: to free from captivity or punishment by paying a price



Legal Definition of ransom 

(Entry 1 of 2)

: a consideration paid or demanded for the release of someone or something from captivity — see also kidnapping

Legal Definition of ransom (Entry 2 of 2)

: to free from captivity by paying a price

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More from Merriam-Webster on ransom

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for ransom

Spanish Central: Translation of ransom

Nglish: Translation of ransom for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of ransom for Arabic Speakers

Comments on ransom

What made you want to look up ransom? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


playful or foolish behavior

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