A hostage is an entity which is held by a captor in order to compel another party to act or refrain from acting in a particular way. Frequently the entity held is a person. Hostage taking is often politically motivated or motivated by a desire for ransom.
Taking hostages is today considered a crime and/or terrorist act; however, it has a history of military use dating back thousands of years. The criminal activity is known as kidnapping. An acute situation where hostages are kept in a building or a vehicle that has been taken over is often called a hostage crisis.
The word "hostage" is sometimes used metaphorically, for example "The failure of the plans showed that yet again the whole matter was hostage to one traffic delay caused by unannounced roadworks stopping a man from catching a plane.".
In old Germanic peoples the word for "hostage" (gīsl and similar) sometimes occurred as part of a man's name.
Famous hostages include
- Terry Anderson
- Brian Keenan
- Terry Waite
- Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote
- Polybius, Greek historian
- Theodoric the Great
- Richard Lionheart
- Christian Chesnot
- Georges Malbrunot
- Yvonne Ridley