a person given or held as security for the fulfillment of certain conditions or terms, promises, etc., by another.
Archaic. a security or pledge.
Obsolete. the condition of a hostage.

verb (used with object), hos·taged, hos·tag·ing.

to give (someone) as a hostage: He was hostaged to the Indians.

Origin of hostage

1225–75; Middle English < Old French hostage (h- by association with (h)oste host2), ostageVulgar Latin *obsidāticum state of being a hostage < Latin obsid- (stem of obses) hostage (equivalent to ob- ob- + sid- sit1) + -āticum -age
Related formshos·tage·ship, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for hostage

Contemporary Examples of hostage

Historical Examples of hostage

  • He has, for this reason, resolved to detain you in it, as a hostage for them.

    Memoirs of Marguerite de Valois, Complete

    Marguerite de Valois, Queen of Navarre

  • And then he had given a hostage to fortune, or his father had for him.

    The Christian

    Hall Caine

  • For even if Bishop yielded to their demand, they would retain her as a hostage.

    Captain Blood

    Rafael Sabatini

  • With even that hope to get even with him, I will not kill you, yet I must have that money or a hostage.

    Buffalo Bill's Spy Trailer

    Colonel Prentiss Ingraham

  • If the Prince is a hostage for your safety, then he must be sacrificed.

    The Destroyer

    Burton Egbert Stevenson

British Dictionary definitions for hostage



a person given to or held by a person, organization, etc, as a security or pledge or for ransom, release, exchange for prisoners, etc
the state of being held as a hostage
any security or pledge
give hostages to fortune to place oneself in a position in which misfortune may strike through the loss of what one values most

Word Origin for hostage

C13: from Old French, from hoste guest, host 1
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for hostage

late 13c., from Old French hostage "person given as security or hostage" (12c., Modern French ôtage), either from hoste "guest" (see host (n.1)) via notion of "a lodger held by a landlord as security," or from Late Latin obsidanus "condition of being held as security," from obses "hostage," from ob- "before" + base of sedere "to sit" [OED]. Modern political/terrorism sense is from 1970.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper