Really? Learn why taking “hostages” used to be legal and routine

On Tuesday, security guards captured a man who broke into the Turkish embassy in Tel Aviv and tried to take hostages. His attempt provides a chance to point out a curious fact; that “hostage” used to mean something far less violent and far more acceptable.

Hostage comes from the Old French meaning a “person given as security.” This ancient practice was a negotiation tactic used by nations and rival factions for thousands of years. A hostage was often an elite member of society who was handed over to secure a treaty, promise, or obligation.

Ancient Romans were well-known hostage-takers. They often took as hostages sons of princes. The Romans would keep these royal men in Rome in exchange for the loyalty of a conquered nation. The young hostage would also receive a Roman education. It was hoped that if the man returned to his country and assumed a leadership role, he would be influenced by the ideas and beliefs held by Roman civilization.  

Securing a treaty by taking hostages is no longer practiced by civilized states. Hostages are now taken by force and used as a bargaining tool for the fulfillment of certain conditions or promises, or exchange of money or goods.

Often hostages are taken when a vehicle, aircraft, or ship is hijacked. The origin of hijack dates to 1923. It is a shortened version of the expression highway jacker, a thief who held up a bootlegger or smuggler in transit.

The taking of a hostage is occasionally a hoax. Read more here about the absolutely bizarre history of the word.


US Fed News Service, Including US State News December 10, 2009 WASHINGTON, Dec. 9 — The U.S. Department of State’s Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs issued the following press release:

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This year’s small or medium-sized company winner is TOMS Shoes in Argentina. TOMS Shoes was chosen for providing a basic necessity – shoes – to disadvantaged people including children and disaster victims, aiding in the prevention of foot-borne infections, and providing mobility for children to obtain education. TOMS Shoes exemplifies U.S. volunteerism and demonstrates best practices in supplier management. This year’s winner in the multinational category is Voila – Communication Cellulaire d’Haiti (Trilogy International Partners). Trilogy International Partners was chosen for its positive impact on the Haitian economy through exemplary employment practices and its promotion of education through youth rehabilitation programs, scholarships, internships, computer labs, sports, and arts programs. see here toms shoes coupon code

The two winners were chosen from 11 finalists. The nine other finalists were Chevron Corporation in the Philippines, Cisco Systems in Lebanon, Cummins in China, Intel Corporation in Costa Rica, Marriott International in Jordan, Officenet Staples in Argentina, Oracle Corporation in Romania, Protec in Vietnam, and White & Case LLP in Russia.


  1. television sets -  February 21, 2012 - 8:50 pm

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  2. Emma -  August 20, 2010 - 8:58 am

    RE: nyarome on August 19, 2010 at 4:54 am
    “I wonder what 2000 through 2010 can be called.”

    Probably The Noughties: that’s how 1900-1910 was referenced.

  3. HOSTAGE | BLOGCHI@mayopia.com -  August 19, 2010 - 2:10 pm

    [...] “A HOSTAGE SITUATION – NEWS AT ELEVEN.” — There’s a phrase we all have heard — since DEMOCRAZY was hijacked and bootlegged by the MONEY word. — If all that’s left is “BLOGGING” by the vote “CORRUPTED” nerd. — There are swords with double edges and machetes with one clean cut — to separate head from body and create one more conservative nut. — All of us are hostages we feel it in our bones — with ideological servitude and the chips in our cell phones. –>>Rupert L.T.Rhyme [...]

  4. Raela -  August 19, 2010 - 12:18 pm

    then what was is called when the Incas would take over entire nations or people groups when they refused to fight?
    Is it enslaving an entire people, taking them hostage, or what?

  5. i would like to c a blog on this -  August 19, 2010 - 10:39 am

    I have requested this before, and as your last blog requested that we make suggestions for the blogs we want to pertaining to medical conditions etc.
    I would like to put this one up.
    What are people who confuse LEFT and RIGHT (directions ) called?
    What is the term for people who mispronounce words as children do called?
    for eg: stammering and stuttering is for the people who pause repeatedly while talking; lisping is when ppl touch their palate with the tip of their tongue while pronouncing S.

  6. HTwoWhoa -  August 19, 2010 - 6:41 am

    I called 2000-2009 “The Units” because ‘aughts’ and ‘naughts’ sounded too ridiculous, and ‘millennials’ seemed like it should mean 2000-2999.

  7. realist -  August 19, 2010 - 5:07 am

    What would be the Roman idea so superior to the conquered in order to permeate their civilization? Which reminds me of education by as to speak by midwife in pedagogy.

  8. nyarome -  August 19, 2010 - 4:54 am

    The modern usage of hostage was perceived in the 20′s as the article said. My curiousity moves from the main topic to the age to be called. 1923 can be refered to 20′s, which helps us recall the atomosphere of the time. I wonder what 2000 thruoug 2010 can be called.


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