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


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

Veronica, always cunning, drugs him, kidnaps Nick instead, and gets $1 million from his parents as ransom. Carolyn Twersky, Seventeen, "Everything That Happened On "Riverdale" Season 2," 8 Oct. 2018 PGA Championship servers hacked, Bitcoin ransom included: Report. Fox News, "FOX NEWS FIRST: N. Korea threatens to halt denuclearization; New theories about Mollie Tibbetts' disappearance," 10 Aug. 2018 The twins find themselves on a bizarre adventure, complete with robbers, ransom money, and a winning lotto ticket. De Elizabeth, Teen Vogue, "Which Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen Movie You Should Watch According to Your Zodiac Sign," 2 Jan. 2019 The domain has continued to prevent computers that get exposed to the WannaCry malware from installing a payload that encrypts hard drives and displays a screen demanding a ransom in exchange for a decryption key. Dan Goodin, Ars Technica, "Key iPhone supplier is hamstrung with the debilitating WannaCry worm," 6 Aug. 2018 Michael Obi was also kidnapped in 2011, when captors demanded $4 billion in ransom from Chelsea, the Premier League club where Mikel played at the time. Daniel Victor, New York Times, "Nigeria Captain Played Key World Cup Match Hours After Learning His Father Was Kidnapped," 3 July 2018 The final push is so dangerous that migrants on buses or walking along railway lines risk being kidnapped by drug cartels who demand ransoms from their families. David Agren, USA TODAY, "'They killed my mother, killed my father:' Central Americans risk lives to reach US border," 27 June 2018 Over at the Pembrooke, the Lodge family dinner is interrupted by a call: Nick St. Clair (!) has Archie tied to a chair (!!) and wants $1 million in ransom from Veronica (!!!). Jessica Macleish, Teen Vogue, ""Riverdale" Recap Season 2 Episode 19: Did Betty Learn Who the Black Hood Is?," 26 Apr. 2018 Dozens of those girls are now free after the Nigerian government paid millions of dollars in ransoms and released high-level Boko Haram commanders, but many of the abductees were forced to marry their kidnappers and have yet to be released. Anne Branigin, The Root, "Boko Haram Releases Some Kidnapped Girls, Warns Parents to Keep Their Daughters Away From School," 21 Mar. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Seeking safe harbor, many instead end up incarcerated, hospitalized, ransomed, stranded, or sold into servitude. Matthew Wolfe, Harper's magazine, "Without a Trace," 10 Feb. 2019 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

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

17 May 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 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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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

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