[priz-uh-ner, priz-ner]


a person who is confined in prison or kept in custody, especially as the result of legal process.
a person or thing that is deprived of liberty or kept in restraint.

Origin of prisoner

1300–50; Middle English < Anglo-French. See prison, -er2 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for prisoner

Contemporary Examples of prisoner

Historical Examples of prisoner

  • But for the knowledge that he was a prisoner, Robert would have enjoyed his present situation.

    Brave and Bold

    Horatio Alger

  • Daubenton and a huissier departed with the prisoner and four gendarmes.

  • I trust that I am now the prisoner of some honorable knight or gentleman.

    The White Company

    Arthur Conan Doyle

  • Even after the shutting of the door behind the prisoner, the pause endured for some moments.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • Mother's made a prisoner of the professor already, but he doesn't know it.

British Dictionary definitions for prisoner



a person deprived of liberty and kept in prison or some other form of custody as a punishment for a crime, while awaiting trial, or for some other reason
a person confined by any of various restraintswe are all prisoners of time
take no prisoners informal to be uncompromising and resolute in one's actions
take someone prisoner to capture and hold someone as a prisoner, esp as a prisoner of war
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 prisoner

"person in prison, captive person," late 14c. (earlier "a jailer," mid-13c., but this did not survive Middle English), from Old French prisonier "captive, hostage" (12c., Modern French prisonnier), from prisoun (see prison (n.)). Captives taken in war have been called prisoners since mid-14c.; phrase prisoner of war dates from 1670s (see also POW). Prisoner's dilemma attested from 1957.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper