Definition of captive in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ˈkaptiv/


A person who has been taken prisoner or an animal that has been confined.
Example sentences
  • The United States government is forbidden by its own law from torturing captives and prisoners.
  • Another short chain joins the leg-irons to the handcuffs, ensuring the captives cannot walk properly.
  • The rebels generally bring their captives across the border to a Lord's Resistance Army camp in Sudan.


1Imprisoned or confined: the farm was used to hold prisoners of war captive a captive animal
More example sentences
  • He rightly recognized that the Berlin Wall was an abomination and a poignant symbol of the chains imprisoning the captive nations of Eastern Europe.
  • Transporting captive animals entails confining them in our sense - they do not live well while cooped up - and may result in injury or death.
  • Interactions usually take place in confined settings with captive animals or, more rarely, with unconfined animals who have been conditioned to come by being fed.
confined, caged, incarcerated, locked up;
jailed, imprisoned, in prison, interned, detained, in captivity, under lock and key, behind bars
1.1 [attributive] Having no freedom to choose alternatives or to avoid something: advertisements at the movie theater reach a captive audience
More example sentences
  • Non-stop advertising to a captive audience is a marketing heaven and is exactly what our private rail networks plan to introduce very soon.
  • A Bolton Evening News reader correctly described the victims of that kind of marketing as a ‘vulnerable and captive audience’.
  • The company has made no secret of its intention to work with broadcasters and advertisers, and to market products directly to its 400,000-strong captive audience.
1.2(Of a facility or service) controlled by, and typically for the sole use of, an establishment or company: a captive power plant
More example sentences
  • Fed up with expensive state assigned-risk pools, DDA rented a captive facility instead - and slashed its expenses by half.
  • Company leaders note there are independent dairy processors as well as captive dairies Dean Foods is interested in purchasing.
  • The USA also retains residual regulation concerning captive shippers.


Late Middle English: from Latin captivus, from capere 'seize, take'.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: cap·tive

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.