ETYM Old Eng. hostage, Old Fren. hostage, ostage, French ôtage, Late Lat. hostaticus, ostaticum, for hospitaticum, from Latin hospes guest, host. The first meaning is, the state of a guest, hospitality.
A prisoner who is held by one party to insure that another party will meet specified terms; SYN. surety.
Person taken prisoner as a means of exerting pressure on a third party, usually with threats of death or injury.
In 1979, 63 staff members of the US embassy in Tehran were taken by the Iranians. Following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait Aug 1990, about 9,000 Westerners were held in Kuwait and Iraq; they were gradually released later that year.
Sept–Nov 1991 saw the release of the longest-held British hostages in Lebanon, Terry Waite and John McCarthy (captured 20 Jan 1987 and 17 April 1986 respectively); other hostages released included Jackie Mann (captured 12 May 1989) and Jesse Turner (captured 24 Jan 1987).