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From Middle English prisoner, from Old French prisonier (compare Medieval Latin prisōnārius), equivalent to prison +‎ -er.



prisoner (plural prisoners)

  1. A person incarcerated in a prison, while on trial or serving a sentence.
  2. Any person held against their will.
    • c. 1587–1588, [Christopher Marlowe], Tamburlaine the Great. [] The First Part [], part 1, 2nd edition, London: [] [R. Robinson for] Richard Iones, [], published 1592, OCLC 932920499; reprinted as Tamburlaine the Great (A Scolar Press Facsimile), Menston, Yorkshire; London: Scolar Press, 1973, →ISBN, Act I, scene ii:
      And gainſt the General we will lift our ſwords
      And either lanch his greedie thirſting throat,
      Or take him priſoner, and his chaine ſhall ſerue
      For Manackles, till he be ranſom’d home.
    • 1910, Emerson Hough, chapter I, in The Purchase Price: Or The Cause of Compromise, Indianapolis, Ind.: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, OCLC 639762314:
      Captain Edward Carlisle, soldier as he was, martinet as he was, felt a curious sensation of helplessness seize upon him as he met her steady gaze, her alluring smile ; he could not tell what this prisoner might do.
  3. A person who is or feels confined or trapped by a situation or a set of circumstances.
    I am no longer a prisoner to fear, for I am a child of God.

Related terms[edit]


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Middle English[edit]

Etymology 1[edit]

Form prisounen +‎ -er.


prisoner (plural prisoners)

  1. one who imprisons (others); a jailer

Etymology 2[edit]

Borrowed from Old French prisonier; equivalent to prisoun +‎ -er.

Alternative forms[edit]


  • IPA(key): /priˈzoːnər/, /ˈprizɔnər/


prisoner (plural prisoners or prisoneres)

  1. prisoner
  2. captive, prisoner of war
  • English: prisoner