GC: n

S: UN – (last access: 18 November 2014); UN – (last access: 29 November 2019).

N: 1. Late 13c., from Old French hostage “person given as security or hostage” (12c., Modern French ôtage), either from hoste “guest” (see host) via notion of “a lodger held by a landlord as security,” or from Late Latin obsidanus “condition of being held as security,” from obses “hostage,” from ob- “before” + base of sedere “to sit”. Modern political/terrorism sense is from 1970.
2. A hostage is a person hand 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.
3. The term “hostage” is used in international humanitarian law as Taking of Hostages or hostage-taking. The International Convention against the Taking of Hostage defines the offence as the seizure or detention of a person (the hostage), combined with the threatening to kill, to injure or to continue to detain the hostage, in order to compel a third party to do or to abstain from doing any act as an explicit or implicit condition to release of the hostage.
4. We can have two different cases with this term:

  • Virtual: There is a film Air Force One , which is related to this term in which the family of the President of the USA and passengers are taken as hostages by a terrorist group.
  • Real: We can see that nowadays, the Islamic State of Irak and Syria (ISIS) is taking many people as hostages.

S: OED – (last access: 18 November 2014). 2. MHA –, page 101 (last access: 18 November 2014). 3. ICRC – (last access: 18 November 2014). 4. IMDB –; CNN – (last access: 18 November 2014).


CR: prisoner of conscience, prisoner of war, Stockholm syndrome.