ran·​som | \ ˈran(t)-səm How to pronounce ransom (audio) \

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 How to pronounce Ransom (audio) \

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

Noun 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. Verb 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 officers shot James while trying to arrest him and four others who kidnapped a man and held him for ransom. Adam Ferrise, cleveland, "Jeff Follmer wins re-election for president of Cleveland police union," 11 Nov. 2020 During an attack, computers are infected by ransomware, which locks up systems; in order to get control back, the victim must pay a ransom. TheWeek, "Hackers are targeting U.S. hospitals for ransomware attacks," 30 Oct. 2020 The dark web is the underbelly of the internet, where cyber-criminals hunt for drugs, demand ransom and engage in trafficking. Sophie Alexander, Bloomberg.com, "Dark Web Hackers Say They Hold Keys to 10,000 Robinhood Accounts," 30 Oct. 2020 The three federal agencies do not recommend that victims pay the ransom, because there is no guarantee that files will be recovered, and paying may embolden others to carry out cyberattacks. Ken Dilanian, NBC News, "FBI, other agencies warn of 'imminent cybercrime threat' to U.S. hospitals," 29 Oct. 2020 The attackers are deploying a particularly disruptive type of malware called ransomware that infects computers and locks up systems until the victims pay a ransom, according to security analysts. Dustin Volz, WSJ, "Hackers Hit Hospitals in Disruptive Ransomware Attack," 29 Oct. 2020 But the most common outcome is encrypting a user’s data to hold it for a ransom payment. Richard Forno, The Conversation, "Ransomware can interfere with elections and fuel disinformation – basic cybersecurity precautions are key to minimizing the damage," 29 Oct. 2020 At dinner, usually for 40 in a dining room brimming with a king’s ransom in Meissen ceramics and pastoral murals, royals broke bread with bohemians and doctrinaires fraternized with libertines. Francesco Lagnese, Town & Country, "Farewell to a Fifth Avenue Home Famed for Its Old World Elegance and Charm," 23 Oct. 2020 If downloaded, the recipient's data was encrypted and they were asked to pay a ransom in bitcoin to free it. Star Tribune, "Trial of Russian charged in bitcoin fraud begins in Paris," 19 Oct. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Threats to digital security come in many shapes and sizes, but Miceli notes that criminals can tamper with the library’s digitized files or conduct a ransomware attack, in which hackers effectively hold files ransom in exchange for a hefty sum. Nora Mcgreevy, Smithsonian Magazine, "Vatican Library Enlists Artificial Intelligence to Protect Its Digitized Treasures," 11 Nov. 2020 Last year, ransom demands by the group included $5.5 million and $12.5 million, according to Adam Meyers, Crowdstrike’s vice president of intelligence. Michael Riley, Bloomberg.com, "Hackers Bearing Down on U.S. Hospitals Have More Attacks Planned," 30 Oct. 2020 Wampanoag abducted settlers and held them ransom, and settlers pillaged and destroyed Native villages. Lizz Schumer, Good Housekeeping, "The True, Dark History Behind Thanksgiving," 31 Aug. 2020 The military has been waging a years-long offensive against the Abu Sayyaf, which has been blacklisted by the United States and the Philippines as a terrorist organization for past bombings, ransom kidnappings and beheadings. Jim Gomez, Star Tribune, "Top militant linked to beheadings surrenders in Philippines," 13 Aug. 2020 The hackers then request ransom to release the data back to the cities. Eric A. Howald Of The Keizertimes, oregonlive, "Keizer officials pay $48k ransom to regain control of city computers," 23 June 2020 In a nearby room with a view of the cable cars, a scared, desperate couple receives ransom terms from a stranger on the phone. Matt Cabral, EW.com, "Perry Mason series premiere recap: Gritty reboot gets off to gruesome start," 22 June 2020 But as time passed, the men seemed more apologetic and admitted ransoming Western hostages. New York Times, "Citing Death Penalty, U.K. Court Blocks Giving Evidence on ISIS ‘Beatles’ to U.S.," 25 Mar. 2020 The attacks, officials say, revealed gaping security holes that could be exploited by those looking to disrupt voting by locking up and ransoming voter rolls or simply cutting power at critical polling centers on Election Day. Matthew Rosenberg, New York Times, "‘Chaos Is the Point’: Russian Hackers and Trolls Grow Stealthier in 2020," 10 Jan. 2020

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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Time Traveler for ransom

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for ransom

Last Updated

18 Nov 2020

Cite this Entry

“Ransom.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ransom. Accessed 28 Nov. 2020.

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More Definitions for ransom


How to pronounce Ransom (audio)

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 How to pronounce ransom (audio) \

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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