What is the “amber” in AMBER Alert? Plus, the origin of “kidnap”

The media is filled with reports of missing children. The term “AMBER Alert” has become synonymous with these tragedies, but the story behind the name “Amber” is worth repeating.

First, the basics. In the suspected kidnapping of a child, an AMBER Alert is issued. This urgent bulletin is voluntarily issued through several agencies within the United States and abroad. The hope behind an AMBER Alert is that the more people who are aware of a possibly abducted child, the quicker the child will be found and returned home.

(By the way, what’s the etymology of kidnap? The word is likely a compound of kid, meaning “child,” and nap, which is a variant of the word “nab,” and that it originally referred to children who were abducted and forced to work as servants in the American colonies. In an alternate etymology, the word is a back-formation of kidnapper. A napper is a thief.) 

AMBER is a backronym for “America’s Missing: Broadcasting Emergency Response;” it was originally named for Amber Hagerman. In 1996, the 9-year-old was tragically kidnapped and murdered in Texas. The murder shocked the small community where Amber lived, and radio stations and local authorities responded by creating an emergency bulletin system that was eventually adopted nationwide.

Amber” is also a pale yellow, sometimes reddish or brownish, fossil resin of vegetable origin, used for making jewelry and other purposes. It also describes the pale yellow color (yellow traffic lights are considered amber.)

Other states have alternate alert names that memorialize murdered children. For example, in Hawaii, it is called the Maile Amber Alert. Maile was a first grader who was abducted and brutally killed in Kailua, Hawaii in 1985.

On the topic of criminal justice, do you know the difference between a charge, a sentence, and a conviction? We offer an explanation in the context of a recent controversial trial, here.

POSH & FLICKS; Amazing spending sprees of footy millionaires Beckhams building pounds 600k 50-seater CINEMA at home.(News) this web site black swan movie

The People (London, England) November 20, 2005 Byline: BY MELANIE SWAN MOVIE-mad Posh and Becks are having a pounds 600,000 CINEMA built at their mansion.

The amazing private flicks will have 50 plush leather and velvet seats, giant screen and latest sound system.

Pals say Victoria, 31, persuaded David they should fork out on the latest extravagant addition to Beckingham Palace because of her growing interest in Hollywood.

A source close to the couple – pals of movie idol Tom Cruise and his fiancee Katie Holmes – said: “Victoria is desperate to have somewhere at her home where she can relax and watch movies with their friends.” Posh’s dad Tony Adams is masterminding construction of two new 1,000 square foot floors above the swimming pool at their pounds 2.5million home in Hertfordshire. Building work alone will cost pounds 400,000. Victoria and her England skipper hubby, 30, have also ordered pounds 100,000 of high-tech equipment for the cinema on the top floor. web site black swan movie

The audience will have their own volume and 3D activating controls. Another pounds 100,000 will go on sound-proof, triple-glazed stained glass walls.The floor below the cinema is a new playroom for the couple’s sons Brooklyn, six, Romeo, three, and eight-month- old Cruz.

The source said: “Victoria can’t wait for work to finish. She’s convinced the cinema will be a worthy addition.

“She has been developing an interest in Hollywood, especially since she and David became close to Tom Cruise.

“Victoria is always running over her ideas for improvements with David. But the cinema is one of her most extravagant changes yet.” The couple have already had a church built in the grounds. But at least they won’t have to hire a cinema again – as they did for Brooklyn’s birthday in 2003.

5 Beckham blockbusters1 Bed It Like Beckham 2 On Goldenballs Pond 3 The Lord of the Blings 4 Every Which Way But Loos 5 It Came From Outer Spice CAPTION(S):

FILM FANS: David and Victoria; DREAM SCREEN: Beckhams’ cinema is being built above pool at their home


  1. Leah -  July 16, 2014 - 3:19 pm

    Rest in peace Amber

  2. 17crosses -  December 13, 2010 - 1:38 pm

    i heard about what happened to Amber. Its so sad.
    So sorry, gloomy heart, for your loss. :(



  3. gloomy heart -  December 11, 2010 - 6:04 pm

    I knew Amber Hagerman after, all she was my friend back in Texas in my childhood days..Unfortunately, I learned about her tragic death when we relocated to the Philippines months before she died. In addition I was unable to attend her funeral which is needless to say disturn my atapaxia heart for years. I genuinely missed Amber and all the good stuff we shared. I’m telling you she has a magnanimous soul..Missed you Ambi wherever you are.

  4. Allitwist -  December 11, 2010 - 3:59 pm

    Thanks Dictionary.com! People should get it how they live! Very informative unlike Morons up and down not everyone knows everything like you nerd…sorry! Parch I understand what you are saying but some of these children have been kidnapped from schools etc…. So it’s not because the parents are to busy watching “football games”. Kate is great that your thinking of becoming a cop we need helpful people in this world!

  5. Hatef -  December 11, 2010 - 1:19 am

    Thanks a lot. It was very informative. I lrarnt so much.

  6. Kelli -  December 10, 2010 - 10:51 am

    One of the key elements the article left out is that it’s all about getting consistent identifying information out there by highway sign, tv, and text message. The public can be a big help in recovering missing children, so fast communication is essential. Posting a make/model and license plate of a suspect across many highways is a great way for law enforcement to engage the public’s assistance. More info here: http://www.amberalert.gov/

  7. XLR8 -  December 10, 2010 - 9:27 am

    I never knew this it is really interesting and kind of scary at the time. I think more people should read this because it is really informative.

  8. Kate -  December 10, 2010 - 9:24 am

    I saw an Amber alert come on tv once. I wrote down all the information because i wanna be a cop someday and i wanna do everything i can to be somebody’s hero. They ended up finding the kis hours later, perfectly fine. I had nothing to do with it. :(

  9. Tayvon Harris -  December 10, 2010 - 8:39 am

    WOw those types of things are real serious

  10. jds014 -  December 10, 2010 - 8:24 am

    This is a really informative source. It is also very scary that people actually steal children. Everyone should be on high alert for this.

  11. Marlon Duque -  December 10, 2010 - 7:17 am

    What a good explanation of both words

  12. AMY-LOU -  December 10, 2010 - 7:07 am

    Cométte on December 9, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    This is so sad. What I wanna know is why do people enjoy taking little ones and kill them? Do they get pleasure out of doing that? If they do, then they are SICK people. I hope that someone will show them that what they are doing is wrong. God will punish them when they get judged when they die.

    I am with you on that. People are really SICK when they take children,teenagers, even adults and do things to them and then kill them. It’s very wrong!!!!!!!!!!! And those kind of people should have people do to them what they did to their victims!!!!!!

  13. Saf -  December 10, 2010 - 7:06 am

    Fine. I was attempting to make a literary reference to a relevant neologism that I think most readers of this blog would find interesting, but I refuse to post it a third time (probably only to have it disappear again).

    [Saf smudges blue highlander woad across her face]

    You can take my comments, Hot Word Blog, but you can never take my freedom!


  14. Parch -  December 10, 2010 - 5:57 am

    Statistics as to how many children have been found using the Amber Alert system would have been a nice addition. i’m sure that data is available somewhere!

    i don’t understand people a lot of times… why not keep your child close to you? i know it’s terrible that the world is like it is… with children being snatched, assaulted and sometimes killed… but knowing that to be the case, how about you keep an eye on your kids?! parents are just too “busy” to watch their kids. that football game isn’t going to watch itself, right? That gossip about the neighbors won’t be spread without you being on the phone! meanwhile, children are being sent outside to fend for themselves for hours on end, and predators are waiting.

    lets hope that through prosecution of kidnappers, and an ounce of prevention by parents, that the Amber Alert system becomes symbolic of a dark footnote in America’s history.

  15. single and ready to mingle -  December 10, 2010 - 4:11 am


  16. single and ready to mingle -  December 10, 2010 - 4:10 am

    OMG!!! i never heard this story before, is there a book out? i think there should as it is very imfomaative, and felicity hunter i sooo agree with, maybe we should start a facebook group about this :)

  17. Rachel Held -  December 10, 2010 - 3:59 am

    I’m not really sure we should talk like that Felicity Hunter!!! :@ It’s not really nice. You wouldn’t want people talking like THAT to you, would you? :@ Yes, I said that on purpose, to get some sense in that smalll brain of yours!! :) HAHAHAHA!!! :)

  18. Rachel Held -  December 10, 2010 - 3:57 am

    Oh!! I cannot believe they KILLED an INNOCENT CHILD!! :( What makes people want to do such horrrible and gruesome things? That is nice that they remember the girl “Amber” in the ways they did, though. :) Don’t you think so?

  19. Rachel Held -  December 10, 2010 - 3:53 am

    That is soooo sad! The girl DIED?! Oh, my goodness! This has so much information, it will help me with an essay i’m writing on kidnapping! Sad? Well, it was assigned for me to do! I wish it hadn’t!Hey, anybody read “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” or “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”?

  20. mohan -  December 10, 2010 - 2:41 am

    Hi, this is really informative

  21. Charles McKinney -  December 10, 2010 - 2:20 am

    I never knew of the existence of backronym until I read this article; took me awhile to comprehend the actual definition but I now understand it. This article ought to be read by more people, esp. parents of small children so they will know exactly what these terms mean, knowing how to respond in, God forbid, such a predicament. Kudos to dictionary.com for enlightening the cyber community on useful information that we can pass on to others (who may not be aware of such knowledge).

  22. Vincent Lopez -  December 9, 2010 - 11:47 pm

    Yeah the place where she was abducted is said to be haunted. Workers report to have seen a child or an odd anomaly of some sort wandering around. The city is arlington fairly near the new Cowboys Stadium. Moreover, I’ve visited the place, the landmark is an old laundry mat where her grandma is said to have been at the time of the abduction. Out back is seen a caged cross in rememberance of the child. The napper I believe is on deathrow or already been executed, perhaps faces life in prison.

  23. gb -  December 9, 2010 - 11:36 pm

    nice to know !

  24. Allen -  December 9, 2010 - 10:04 pm

    Wow, impressive! Dictionary.com has evolved into more than just what it used to be and Im liking it! The guys behind this amazing transformation are brilliant! :-)

  25. Piper -  December 9, 2010 - 8:54 pm

    What I don’t get is how someone could do that to a little girl! Kidnap her AND murder her. It’s just wrong. I feel sick whenever I hear something about a idiot hurting a child. It’s horrible. Repulsive. Gosh, I get so fired up when I hear about these things. Whoever did something like that derserves a fate much worse than death!

  26. sade castro -  December 9, 2010 - 6:40 pm

    iremember watching the movie on Lifetime about amber ,

  27. bob -  December 9, 2010 - 6:10 pm


  28. lianyaer -  December 9, 2010 - 6:06 pm

    helpful information

  29. m0rons up and down -  December 9, 2010 - 5:29 pm

    This is ludicruos! People who said that this is sooooooooooooo informative are naive and nonsensical..I mean even my 4-year old niece knew this and more. I think the 13 people who sent feedback above about it are still on elementary level..They are sucked in the vortex of ignorance and pandemonium. I understand that lowly-moron humans can digest such overwhelming knowledge from mine needless to say but I kno you wanna learn cause my IQ is 4 points higher than Stephen Hawkins.
    Also the staff who review this should not eradicate my feedback in this Blog casue it’s time for the banal to learm their amazing stupidity.

    Nice article! You keep the bloods in my vein alive and kickin.’

  30. Jason -  December 9, 2010 - 4:52 pm

    This is soooooooooooooooo informative

  31. Felicity Hunter -  December 9, 2010 - 3:55 pm

    those SICK people make me sick too! but you, know, it all started when Eve eat the fruit. now we live in a sinful world. BUT, one day ether somebody gonna slap some sense into those kind of people or we’ll all go to Heaven without ‘em.

  32. [...] I remembered the alert being named for a child. I never heard of a “back acronym” until I read this article. Now I need to come up with a back acronym for my username “ncoutlander”. I wonder if “Amplify” has an acronym? If not maybe we can have a contest to create one? Amplify’d from hotword.dictionary.com [...]

  33. Cométte -  December 9, 2010 - 3:23 pm

    This is so sad. What I wanna know is why do people enjoy taking little ones and kill them? Do they get pleasure out of doing that? If they do, then they are SICK people. I hope that someone will show them that what they are doing is wrong. God will punish them when they get judged when they die.

  34. POLIAMBER ALERT | BLOGCHI@mayopia.com -  December 9, 2010 - 3:06 pm

    [...] to make light of our sick society and the faulty wired beasts — or especially the need for an AMBER ALERT with the electronic communication feasts. — There certainly must be a “KIDNAPP” [...]

  35. tyanna -  December 9, 2010 - 2:38 pm

    i like that u have the word symonams in the story

  36. Zack Brown -  December 9, 2010 - 2:28 pm

    i never nu this really amazinng

  37. riley -  December 9, 2010 - 2:24 pm

    that was soooooooooooo sad bt at least or…… i hope tht now ppl wnt die cuz of the alert poor amber…. and her family

  38. tracy -  December 9, 2010 - 1:48 pm

    Yes, I remember. I want to say that others also saw the girl with the kidnapper but either didn’t know what was going on or chose to ignore it. By the time people were made aware the girl was gone, she was already dead. :-( Sad story…. hopefully saves lives from that aweful story.

  39. andy -  December 9, 2010 - 1:22 pm

    i never knew this it really intersting nd kind of scary at the time
    i think more ppl should ready this cuz its really intersting nd plus i know ppl would say the same thinf i did

  40. marcanthony -  December 9, 2010 - 11:40 am

    yoooooooooooooo i never new this

  41. Mary -  December 9, 2010 - 11:31 am

    very informative :)


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