Definition of hostage in English:


See synonyms for hostage

Translate hostage into Spanish


  • A person seized or held as security for the fulfillment 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



/ˈhästij/ /ˈhɑstɪdʒ/


    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’
      • ‘They seize the recruits and hold them hostage for a few hours.’
      • ‘It's like the Stockholm Syndrome where hostages imprint on the people who hold them hostage and fight against their rescuers.’
      • ‘They hold you hostage and feed you horrible fattening food you would never eat anywhere else.’
      • ‘It doesn't make sense for the terrorists to abduct a person, hold him hostage, and not tell anyone until just before they execute him.’
      • ‘The murder was unusual in that was no attempt was made by his attackers to hold him hostage or make political capital out of his nationality.’
      • ‘They will take you from me, and hold you hostage.’
      • ‘There is never a good business reason to let an employee hold you hostage.’
      • ‘‘We needed to look the beast in the eye,’ explains Archbishop Desmond Tutu, ‘so that the past wouldn't hold us hostage any more.’’
      • ‘They will have the power to hold us hostage to blackmail and terror.’
      • ‘The purpose of such action is to force average people to their knees and hold them hostage to the horrors of terrorism.’
    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’


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’.