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

Should governments ever pay ransom to terrorists who take hostages? Joel Simon, WSJ, "A Smarter Way to Recover Hostages," 4 Jan. 2019 Officials in that area refused to pay the Bitcoin ransom. Chris Morris, Fortune, "Hackers Shut Down Atlanta Government Computers and Demand Bitcoin," 23 Mar. 2018 They are also charged in a separate indictment in the US District Court for the District of New Jersey in connection with another ransomware attack, in which a ransom was apparently paid. Sean Gallagher, Ars Technica, "Iranians indicted in Atlanta city government ransomware attack," 5 Dec. 2018 So donate to your favorite charities to help defend the rights of those who can’t help themselves, check your voter registration, and gather magazines to cut words out of for a great ransom note. Amanda Mitchell, Marie Claire, "What Your Zodiac Sign Says About How You Should Prep for The 2018 Midterms," 11 Oct. 2018 In 2016, a Los Angeles hospital paid a ransom of nearly $17,000 in bitcoins to hackers who infiltrated and disabled its computer network. James Rogers, Fox News, "San Diego port targeted in ransomware attack," 28 Sep. 2018 Upon making the call, Mikel was told to pay a ransom of around $27,700, or else his father would be killed. Martin Rogers, USA TODAY, "Nigeria captain John Obi Mikel's father kidnapped during World Cup," 3 July 2018 Cooper became a folklore legend after parachuting from a jet in 1971 in a business suit and escaping with $200,000 in ransom money. Robert Gearty, Fox News, "Indiana man tells how cracked code pointed to DB Cooper suspect," 3 Aug. 2018 But there are still the requisite conspiracy theories: that Troom Troom is actually run by a millennial woman in San Francisco, or that the Troom Troom girls are being held against their will, forced to make weird DIY videos for ransom. Rebecca Jennings, Vox, "YouTube is full of cringey, clickbait DIY channels. They’re even weirder than you think.," 12 Nov. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Over the past two months, dozens of people, including local government officials, tribal elders and village chiefs have been abducted and killed or ransomed by fighters claiming affiliation with the Islamic State. Mustafa Salim, The Seattle Times, "ISIS is making a comeback in Iraq less than a year after Baghdad declared victory," 17 July 2018 Her main contact is with a wealthy woman named Charlotte (Edie Falco), whose own son was captured and later successfully ransomed. Soren Andersen, The Seattle Times, "‘Viper Club’: Susan Sarandon brings grace, heartbreaking power to hostage drama," 30 Oct. 2018 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

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

11 Jan 2019

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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).


a complex dispute or argument

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