Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English homepage

Topic: CRIME AND LAW

Date: 1200-1300
Language: Old French
Origin: rançon, from Latin redemptio; REDEMPTION

ransom

1 noun
     
ran‧som1 [countable]
1SC an amount of money that is paid to free someone who is held as a prisoner:
The kidnappers were demanding a ransom of $250,000.
The government refused to pay the ransom.
ransom demand/note
There has still been no ransom demand.
He's got the ransom money.
2

hold somebody for ransom

also hold somebody to ransom British English to keep someone prisoner until money is paid:
His daughter was kidnapped and held for ransom.
3

hold somebody to ransom

British English to put someone in a situation where they have no choice and are forced to agree to your demands:
He has accused the nurses of holding the government to ransom by threatening to strike.
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