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 jagged lettering and incomplete coloring on ‘Cleveland’ across the chest is a bit like a ransom note, but this uniform is saved by the simple fact that the primary color is black. Marc Bona, cleveland, "Collin Sexton Cleveland Cavaliers City Jersey bobblehead released today," 16 Apr. 2021 The small but violent group has long been blacklisted by the United States and the Philippines for ransom kidnappings, beheadings of hostages and deadly bombing attacks. Star Tribune, "Philippine troops kill Egyptian, 2 Filipino militants," 16 Apr. 2021 Ulis doesn’t actually know that the unknown skyjacker, who bought his plane ticket under the name Dan Cooper, buried the ransom money here. oregonlive, "Why would an Arizona congressional candidate launch his campaign in the Pacific Northwest? D.B. Cooper, of course," 6 Apr. 2021 The agency has launched ransomware awareness campaigns to educate schools, including the biggest piece of advice: Do not pay the ransom money. Andrew Boryga, sun-sentinel.com, "Broward schools hackers are a new crew of ransomware scammers looking to make millions," 31 Mar. 2021 Paying higher ransoms only incentivize kidnapping, says Anja Shortland, a professor of political economy at King's College in London, an expert on piracy ransom money. Saudamini Jain, CNN, "Indian sailors are being caught in a piracy boom off West Africa. One captain held hostage shares his story," 20 Mar. 2021 That's when the text came in, that said there was a ransom note and where to go. Peter Van Sant, CBS News, "FBI reveals new evidence in hopes of identifying unknown victims of serial killer," 13 Mar. 2021 The attacker holds the encryption keys, promising to share them with the victims in exchange for ransom money. Abdul Subhani, Forbes, "Dealing With Ransomware Threats," 2 Mar. 2021 And corrupt government officials have also been accused of skimming portions of the ransom money, according to Nigerian analysts and media reports. New York Times, "Nigeria’s Boarding Schools Have Become a Hunting Ground for Kidnappers," 1 Mar. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Pilots making emergency landings in the desert risked being captured by local nomadic tribes who would then attempt to ransom them. Miquel Ros, CNN, "Aeropostale: The hero pilots who connected the world by airmail," 14 Apr. 2021 Initially, authorities believed the paintings would re-appear quickly, either to be sold on the black market or used as a bargaining chip or ransom in criminal circles. Quinci Legardye, Marie Claire, "Were the Stolen Paintings From 'This Is a Robbery' Ever Found?," 12 Apr. 2021 From here, Katz often coaches her clients on the process of advertising rewards, garnering community attention, and negotiating if the perpetrator gets in contact for reward/ransom money. Brandon Schultz, Forbes, "Lady Gaga Offers $500,000 For Her Stolen Dogs. Hire A Pet Detective For Yours.," 25 Feb. 2021 In April, a Pakistani court downgraded Omar Saeed Sheikh’s conviction on charges of murder, terrorism and ransom to a single kidnapping charge. Byron Tau, WSJ, "Justice Department Says Daniel Pearl’s Accused Killer Could Be Tried in U.S.," 30 Dec. 2020 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

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

29 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Ransom.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ransom. Accessed 7 May. 2021.

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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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