res·​cue ˈre-(ˌ)skyü How to pronounce rescue (audio)
rescued; rescuing

transitive verb

: to free from confinement, danger, or evil : save, deliver
They were rescued from the burning building by firefighters.
… a volunteer group that rescues and nurtures injured and orphaned wildlife …Australian Geographic
(figurative) … the acanthus leaf into which the light fixture on the hall ceiling is set was rescued from a curbside trash heap.Barbara Deane
: such as
: to take (someone, such as a prisoner) forcibly from custody
: to recover (something, such as a prize) by force
: to deliver (a place under siege) by armed force
rescuable adjective
rescue noun
Historians are wary of the notion that, at a critical point in history, a heroic figure, galloping to the rescue, snatches victory from the jaws of defeat … James MacGregor Burns
rescuer noun
Choose the Right Synonym for rescue

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 rescue in a Sentence

The survivors were rescued by the Coast Guard. an all-out effort to rescue a beached whale
Recent Examples on the Web Based on the 1990 rom-com that launched Julia Roberts’ career, this up-tempo musical tells the love story of a cynical businessman and the free-spirited escort who rescues him right back. Joey Morona, cleveland, 17 Sep. 2023 Bayona successfully pulls the movie back from dramatic stasis once Nando and Roberto encounter a horseman, accelerating the action as the remaining survivors are rescued and reunited with their families back home. David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter, 14 Sep. 2023 The woman, who is from Guinea, was rescued, in shock, but the baby died, Rai said. Frances D'emilio,, 13 Sep. 2023 William Lucas, 8, survived after Tonya Lucas’ boyfriend at the time rescued him from the burning home. Alex Mann, Baltimore Sun, 12 Sep. 2023 As a teenage orphan, he got dressed on the steps of a church on Christopher Street before going out, creating looks from a shopping cart full of wigs, makeup, and fabric rescued from the trash of the city’s dying manufacturing sector. Hugh Ryan, Curbed, 12 Sep. 2023 The helicopter crew found the crash wreckage just after 7 p.m. and lowered a swimmer to the site to rescue the pilot, the statement said. Tess Williams, Anchorage Daily News, 11 Sep. 2023 The New York City Fire Department this week also added 43 names to a memorial wall remembering firefighters, paramedics and civilian support staff members who died from illnesses related to rescue and recovery efforts after the attack. Alexandra Hutzler, ABC News, 11 Sep. 2023 The 455-acre sanctuary houses 32 rescued lions and tigers, per ADI. David Chiu, Peoplemag, 5 Sep. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'rescue.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English rescouen, rescuen, from Anglo-French rescure, from re- + escure to shake off, from Latin excutere, from ex- + quatere to shake

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of rescue was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near rescue

Cite this Entry

“Rescue.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


res·​cue ˈres-kyü How to pronounce rescue (audio)
rescued; rescuing
: to free from danger or evil : save
rescue noun
rescuer noun

More from Merriam-Webster on rescue

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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