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 In ransomware attacks, hackers typically encrypt an organization’s computer files and then demand a ransom payment to unlock the data. Mike Jeffers, Fortune, "A cyber attack has shut down the country’s largest gasoline pipeline," 8 May 2021 In comparison, the San Francisco 49ers paid a ransom to move up to No. 3 in a deal with the Miami Dolphins last month. Brad Biggs, chicagotribune.com, "Column: The Chicago Bears again paid a big price to trade up for a quarterback. But if Justin Fields is the long-sought answer at the position, it will be worth it.," 30 Apr. 2021 Over the past few years, skyrocketing ransom demands and indiscriminate targeting have escalated, with no relief in sight. Lily Hay Newman, Wired, "An Ambitious Plan to Tackle Ransomware Faces Long Odds," 29 Apr. 2021 Last year was the worst to date in terms of the economic toll, with ransom demands to victims averaging over $100,000 and in some cases totaling tens of millions of dollars, according to the Justice Department. Eric Tucker, ajc, "US takes new aim at ransomware after costly year for attacks," 21 Apr. 2021 There was also a threat that more information would be published if the attackers weren’t paid a ransom. Andy Meek, BGR, "This is some of the worst news that a bank customer can get after a hack," 21 Mar. 2021 Not long before, his family had paid a second ransom of $203,000. Michael Granberry, Dallas News, "Dallas filmmaker lands streaming deal for documentary about his dad’s kidnapping," 17 Mar. 2021 The man was returned to the Mexican border city of Miguel Aleman, where he was kidnapped and freed only after his relatives in the U.S. paid $5,000 ransom, Cohen said. Los Angeles Times, "Surge of migrant families and youths overwhelms Border Patrol in Texas," 16 Mar. 2021 As his son watched, José was beaten with a bat by his captors, who threatened to kill him until his wife, listening over the phone, paid the ransom. New York Times, "Father and Son Abducted in Mexico Are Allowed into the U.S.," 17 Feb. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb That helped drive ransom payments up nearly threefold to an average of more than $300,000. Frank Bajak, Star Tribune, "Insurer AXA halts ransomware crime reimbursement in France," 6 May 2021 The purpose behind these types of attacks can vary, but they are generally designed to steal trade secrets, embarrass business leaders and tamper with, destroy or ransom data. Perry Carpenter, Forbes, "Cybersecurity And Nation-State Threats: What Businesses Need To Know," 16 Apr. 2021 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

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

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

11 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Ransom.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ransom. Accessed 16 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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