hos·​tage | \ ˈhä-stij How to pronounce hostage (audio) \

Definition of hostage

1a : a person held by one party in a conflict as a pledge pending the fulfillment of an agreement
b : a person taken by force to secure the taker's demands
2 : one that is involuntarily controlled by an outside influence

Examples of hostage in a Sentence

The terrorists demanded a plane and a pilot in exchange for the hostages. The hostage crisis is now entering its second week. The passengers were taken hostage. They were held hostage for several days.
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Recent Examples on the Web The hostage was taken to a hospital but her medical condition was not immediately known, police said. Fox News, 9 Oct. 2021 The hostage was not injured, officials said The suspect was taken to a hospital and later confirmed dead, Los Angeles police said. NBC News, 9 Oct. 2021 Biden’s critics must stop letting him off the hook and treating him like his advisers’ hostage. Deroy Murdock, National Review, 8 Oct. 2021 Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who used to lead the Federal Reserve, has some thoughts about lawmakers essentially taking the US economy hostage every few years in order to score some cheap political points. Charles Riley, CNN, 8 Oct. 2021 Sending that message comes with real costs, which are overwhelmingly borne by the military's most elite Special Operations forces, who were repeatedly tapped for high-risk hostage rescues and body recoveries. The New York Times, Arkansas Online, 6 Oct. 2021 LeMere runs through the orange room and takes Kasie hostage, clearly unconcerned about who gets killed in his escape attempt. Sara Netzley,, 28 Sep. 2021 Where, before, the world of normies held her potential hostage, now the tables have turned, and her brand of ruthless, efficient intensity reigns supreme. Devon Maloney, Vulture, 27 Sep. 2021 When Rudy wakes up in Sara’s garage due to a misunderstanding, her parents decide to keep Rudy hostage and ask his parents for a hefty ransom in hopes of finally paying for their daughter’s treatment. Elsa Keslassy, Variety, 27 Sep. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'hostage.' 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 hostage

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for hostage

Middle English hostage, ostage, borrowed from Anglo-French, "lodging, residence, custody of a person held as security against fulfillment of an agreement, the person so held," from hoste "guest, host" + -age -age — more at host entry 3

Note: The peculiar sense shift apparently arose from the Old French use of hostage in verbal phrases such as prendre en hostage "to take in residence, lodge" in reference to the lodging of a person held as surety; the import of hostage was then transferred to the status of such a person, and finally to the actual person.

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Time Traveler for hostage

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The first known use of hostage was in the 13th century

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Dictionary Entries Near hostage



hostage crisis

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Statistics for hostage

Last Updated

14 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Hostage.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Oct. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of hostage

: a person who is captured by someone who demands that certain things be done before the captured person is freed


hos·​tage | \ ˈhä-stij How to pronounce hostage (audio) \

Kids Definition of hostage

: a person who is captured by someone who demands that certain things be done before the captured person is freed

More from Merriam-Webster on hostage

Nglish: Translation of hostage for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of hostage for Arabic Speakers


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