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

The unusual structure has long made bitcoin a primary means of payment for drugs on online black markets, and more recently as a method for making ransom payments. BostonGlobe.com, "How Russian spies hid behind bitcoin in hacking campaign," 14 July 2018 The unusual structure has long made Bitcoin a primary means of payment for drugs on online black markets, and more recently as a method for making ransom payments. New York Times, "How Russian Spies Hid Behind Bitcoin in Hacking Campaign," 13 July 2018 His father was also kidnapped in 2011, when the kidnappers demanded a $4 billion ransom from Chelsea. Gerald Imray, chicagotribune.com, "Nigeria captain played World Cup match after learning, being forced to keep quiet about father’s kidnapping," 3 July 2018 Typically, the virus demands a ransom payment in order to have access restored. Shawn R. Beals, Courant Community, "Middletown Schools Hit With Ransomware Attack," 29 June 2018 The parents of a missing Michigan teenager received a text demanding a ransom be paid for the girl’s safe return. Terrell Jermaine Starr, The Root, "Ransom Text Sent To Relatives Of Missing Michigan Child," 23 June 2018 The Colombian government granted neither political concessions nor prisoner releases — once seen as worse than material support through ransom payments. Danielle Gilbert, Washington Post, "Will Colombia’s next president be a former left-wing guerrilla?," 15 June 2018 The police have access to the database of all mobile phones users to trace the kidnappers who are demanding ransom. Bukola Adebayo, CNN, "Uganda activists dump coffins outside parliament to protest murders," 6 June 2018 The timing - which U.S. officials insisted was a coincidence - suggested that the cash could be viewed as a ransom payment. courant.com, "Fact-checking President Trump's reasons for leaving the Iran nuclear deal," 9 May 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

20 Sep 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

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