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[kap-tiv] /ˈkæp tɪv/
a prisoner.
a person who is enslaved or dominated; slave:
He is the captive of his own fears.
made or held prisoner, especially in war:
captive troops.
kept in confinement or restraint:
captive animals.
enslaved by love, beauty, etc.; captivated:
her captive beau.
of or relating to a captive.
managed as an affiliate or subsidiary of a corporation and operated almost exclusively for the use or needs of the parent corporation rather than independently for the general public:
a captive shop; a captive mine.
1300-50; Middle English (< Middle French) < Latin captīvus, equivalent to capt(us) taken (past participle of capere to take) + -īvus -ive
Related forms
noncaptive, adjective
pseudocaptive, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for captives
  • They held their captives for two days before releasing them.
  • In these rooms, captives deemed important were manacled to the bed frames.
  • After the war ended, the island continued holding captives, even as its significance as a fortress waned.
  • They became captives to the culture they were renouncing.
  • Besides the usual spoils of war, the conquerors sought human captives, which were essential for a king to maintain power.
  • Dancing was also seen as a form of exercise, which helped to preserve and maintain the captives' health during the tedious voyage.
  • She takes the captives to holding pens at her house until she can let them go far away from human activity.
  • Among the objects found among his bones was a small rectangular ceramic seal depicting a jackal and nine bound captives.
  • It depicts a queen grasping a handful of small, doomed captives.
  • Already the two captives have produced four healthy cubs.
British Dictionary definitions for captives


a person or animal that is confined or restrained, esp a prisoner of war
a person whose behaviour is dominated by some emotion: a captive of love
held as prisoner
held under restriction or control; confined: captive water held behind a dam
captivated; enraptured
unable by circumstances to avoid speeches, advertisements, etc (esp in the phrase captive audience)
Word Origin
C14: from Latin captīvus, from capere to take
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for captives



late 14c., "imprisoned, enslaved," from Latin captivus "caught, taken prisoner," from captus, past participle of capere "to take, hold, seize" (see capable). As a noun from c.1400; an Old English noun was hæftling, from hæft "taken, seized."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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captives in the Bible

one taken in war. Captives were often treated with great cruelty and indignity (1 Kings 20:32; Josh. 10:24; Judg. 1:7; 2 Sam. 4:12; Judg. 8:7; 2 Sam. 12:31; 1 Chr. 20:3). When a city was taken by assault, all the men were slain, and the women and children carried away captive and sold as slaves (Isa. 20; 47:3; 2 Chr. 28:9-15; Ps. 44:12; Joel 3:3), and exposed to the most cruel treatment (Nah. 3:10; Zech. 14:2; Esther 3:13; 2 Kings 8:12; Isa. 13:16, 18). Captives were sometimes carried away into foreign countries, as was the case with the Jews (Jer. 20:5; 39:9, 10; 40:7).

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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