Meaning of hostage in English:


Pronunciation /ˈhɒstɪdʒ/

See synonyms for hostage

Translate hostage into Spanish


  • A person seized or held as security for the fulfilment of a condition.

    ‘three hostages were released but only after their families paid an estimated $200,000 to the guerrillas’
    • ‘The blasts also triggered chaos inside the building, which a number of hostages seized upon as their cue to escape.’
    • ‘Most of the child hostages who were seized by terrorists were reported to be alive.’
    • ‘Yes, we cannot really impose on him a condition to leave his family behind as hostages.’
    • ‘These rules made sense in an era when hijackers demanded money or held hostages for political purposes.’
    • ‘He said they would free all the hostages if police released the rest of the detained protesters.’
    • ‘The gang took the manager to his branch while holding the rest of his family hostage.’
    • ‘Ten hostages have been released unharmed but five remain unaccounted for.’
    • ‘Let me make clear that I join every other civilized person in hoping the hostages are released unharmed.’
    • ‘Many of the 349 hostages now being treated in hospital are in a serious condition and could yet die.’
    • ‘Scores of hostages from two dozen countries have been seized in the last four months.’
    • ‘The army used microphones to urge the gunmen to release the hostages and surrender.’
    • ‘They had become hostages at sea, where captives are more discreetly disposed of than anywhere else.’
    • ‘Seventeen hostages remain in the jungle where they have been held captive for two and a half months.’
    • ‘You have a known murderer, out from prison on license, who is holding hostages in a house.’
    • ‘The grim find came just days after hopes were raised for three of the hostages as a new videotape of them was released.’
    • ‘One of the four Italian hostages who worked for a security company was killed.’
    • ‘Japan can breathe a momentary sigh of relief after the release of three Japanese hostages.’
    • ‘The three hostages were rescued, although one is in serious condition in hospital.’
    • ‘This was meant to pave the way for talks aimed at gaining the release of the hostages.’
    • ‘Finally the vehicle was abandoned and the hostages were made to walk on foot.’
    captive, prisoner, detainee, internee
    View synonyms


    hold someone hostage
    • Seize and keep someone as a hostage.

      ‘they were held hostage by armed rebels’
      • ‘more than 70 foreigners have been taken hostage in recent months’
    hostage to fortune
    • An undertaking or remark that is regarded as unwise because it invites trouble or could prove difficult to live up to.

      ‘promises made in the heat of an election campaign all too often create hostages to fortune’
      • ‘making objectives explicit is to give a hostage to fortune’
      • ‘This brave statement may yet prove to be a hostage to fortune.’
      • ‘They might pass something that proves an electoral liability or makes a minister a hostage to fortune.’
      • ‘There is no point in producing a blog if it is not honest and open but politicians are wary beasts because we are all hostages to fortune and we don't want to give our opponents ammunition.’
      • ‘Statues, like wives and children, are hostages to fortune; they inspire superstitious dread while their originals are in power, and an equally superstitious hatred when they lose the aura of power.’
      • ‘In essence, the manifesto which evolved during the 1990s was a pragmatic statement of radical intent which went out of its way to remove the more obvious hostages to fortune which were never going to be implemented anyway.’
      • ‘There's no point in giving hostages to fortune, is there?’
      • ‘These are just early signs and it would be giving hostages to fortune to suggest that suddenly everything is back fully on track in terms of global growth.’
      • ‘Nobody who has been an MP for 12 years and a front-bencher for eight can be unaware of the risks involved in handing hostages to fortune.’
      • ‘The coalition which will form the new government will almost certainly have to give a number of hostages to fortune if it is to get there.’
      • ‘Promises made in the heat of an election campaign all too often create hostages to fortune.’


Middle English from Old French, based on late Latin obsidatus ‘the state of being a hostage’ (the earliest sense in English), from Latin obses, obsid- ‘hostage’.