A hostage is a person or entity which is held by a captor. The original definition meant that this was handed over by one of two belligerent parties to the other or seized as security for the carrying out of an agreement, or as a preventive measure against certain acts of war. However, in contemporary usage, it means someone who is seized by a criminal abductor in order to compel another party such as a relative, employer, law enforcement, or government to act, or refrain from acting, in a particular way, often under threat of serious physical harm to the hostage(s) after expiration of an ultimatum.
A person who seizes one or more hostages is known as a hostage-taker; if the hostages are present voluntarily, then the receiver is known as a host.
Famous quotes containing the word hostage:
“Neither dead nor alive, the hostage is suspended by an incalculable outcome. It is not his destiny that awaits for him, nor his own death, but anonymous chance, which can only seem to him something absolutely arbitrary.... He is in a state of radical emergency, of virtual extermination.”
—Jean Baudrillard (b. 1929)