person/entity held by a belligerent party to another or seized for carrying out agreement

A hostage is a person who is held captive against his or her will. Hostages are often taken (held captive) to force someone else to do something for their captors (the people who took them hostage). Hostages are taken for many different reasons.

  • Kidnapping is the act of taking a hostage and asking for a sum of money, called ransom. If the ransom is paid, the hostage is freed. If the ransom is not paid, the hostage is killed.
  • During some crimes, for example when robbing a bank, hostages may be taken to stop the police from attacking. The hostages are commonly used to help the thief escape by either stopping the police from shooting them or by freeing a hostage if the police will do something, for example, getting the robbers a car or a helicopter.
  • Hostages may be taken for political reasons. This is mostly done as a form of terrorism. It is often done to get prisoners (including prisoner of war at wartime) freed or get attention for a group or issue.