Definition of captive in English:



  • A person who has been taken prisoner or an animal that has been confined.

    ‘the policeman put a pair of handcuffs on the captive’
    • ‘Another short chain joins the leg-irons to the handcuffs, ensuring the captives cannot walk properly.’
    • ‘The United States government is forbidden by its own law from torturing captives and prisoners.’
    • ‘They had become hostages at sea, where captives are more discreetly disposed of than anywhere else.’
    • ‘The government has so far refused to consider the exchange and the captives are condemned to many more years in their jungle prisons.’
    • ‘In the old days there were also slaves, those born as slaves and more recent captives.’
    • ‘Many local leaders, however, continued to sell captives to illegal slave traders.’
    • ‘At one point, the hostage wife demands to take one of the other captives to the ladies' room.’
    • ‘Consternation spread through the armed men, and a subdued elation sprang into the hearts of the captives.’
    • ‘Why had he suddenly turned around, turned himself in, and gotten help for his captives?’
    • ‘The small room at the end was obviously the room where the captives had been detained.’
    • ‘After 1815 British warships who captured slave ships brought freed captives there.’
    • ‘The prison guards stand over their captives with electric cattle prods, stun guns, and dogs.’
    • ‘Often, he would hold women as captives until they were sold as slaves at a town held auction.’
    • ‘After great battles, the captives were brought to the temple of Dagon to wait in the darkness.’
    • ‘The hostage takers have allowed their 14 captives to receive supplies for the first time ever.’
    • ‘The rebels generally bring their captives across the border to a Lord's Resistance Army camp in Sudan.’
    • ‘If his captives were using torture to keep him subdued, he would be too proud to let her know.’
    • ‘Each rebel carried many, many weapons so they could arm the captives they saved.’
    • ‘They have suffered many casualties, and their jails are full to the brim with captives.’
    • ‘Woomera is the perfect place for a prison camp; even if its captives escape, they won't be able to get far.’
    prisoner, convict, detainee, inmate
    prisoner of war, pow, internee, hostage
    slave, bondsman
    jailbird, con
    View synonyms


  • 1Imprisoned or confined.

    ‘the farm was used to hold prisoners of war captive’
    ‘a captive animal’
    • ‘And while scientists don't know for sure, Kunz suggests bat midwifery isn't an anomaly restricted to captive populations.’
    • ‘The 64 captive tigers in China are all descendants of six wild animals seized in 1956.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Killing women and children, taking women captive, torturing and mutilating downed males, scalping and beheading are common practices.’
    • ‘Gerstein's studies with captive manatees have shown that the animals cannot hear approaching boats and get out of the way before being hit.’
    • ‘Much of what wild animals need to know to survive is also learned behavior, which is another reason why it is notoriously difficult to reintroduce captive animals to the wild.’
    • ‘In another case a man from Auxerre was jailed for keeping women captive in the basement of his home.’
    • ‘These were then used to hold political prisoners captive.’
    • ‘Her eyes had grown to a soft gray, and there was a spark there that hadn't been ignited in the whole year she'd been captive in the prison.’
    • ‘I had returned to the bed and was laying down, trying to figure out where I was and who was holding me captive, when the lock clicked on the door.’
    • ‘The Western Plains Zoo is now a leading centre for conservation of large mammals from all over the world as well as running captive breeding programs for Australian native birds and animals.’
    • ‘He rightly recognized that the Berlin Wall was an abomination and a poignant symbol of the chains imprisoning the captive nations of Eastern Europe.’
    • ‘A captive wild animal can only show us the loneliness, fear and boredom they experience for the entirety of their miserable lives.’
    • ‘It would not enjoy territorial contiguity and would continue to be policed by Israeli forces as a virtual prison camp for a captive population.’
    • ‘But they couldn't move, literally, held captive by a security lockdown after a U.S. airliner smashed into a residential area in Queens nearby.’
    • ‘He said PAWS objects to circuses keeping wild and exotic animals captive for entertainment.’
    • ‘Through wire mesh, I watch the captive flocks pace out their confinement.’
    • ‘She was taken captive early in the plans of imprisonment.’
    • ‘Jared's brother gets whacked, and Jared finds himself a prisoner, inexplicably held captive in a jail cell.’
    confined, caged, incarcerated, locked up, penned up
    chained, shackled, fettered, ensnared
    restrained, under restraint, restricted, secure
    jailed, imprisoned, in prison, interned, detained, in captivity, under lock and key, behind bars, in bondage, taken prisoner
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1[attributive]Having no freedom to choose alternatives or to avoid something.
      ‘advertisements at the cinema reach a captive audience’
      • ‘The transporters take full advantage of the situation by extending sub-standard service to an almost captive clientele.’
      • ‘Spin some tall tale which would hold their captive audience enthralled.’
      • ‘So he's got a captive audience out there, and he's appealing to them.’
      • ‘And we didn't have to act as a captive audience while an ego-maniac musician regaled us with stories of his career/tour/hobbies.’
      • ‘Non-stop advertising to a captive audience is a marketing heaven and is exactly what our private rail networks plan to introduce very soon.’
      • ‘It's all a scheme to build a captive audience for his lectures.’
      • ‘You have a captive audience and you have to entertain them.’
      • ‘Crowds jostle and a six-piece jazz band begins to entertain the captive audience as the rain sheets down outside.’
      • ‘They're a captive audience, with no real choices and no real means to fight for their right to party.’
      • ‘A Bolton Evening News reader correctly described the victims of that kind of marketing as a ‘vulnerable and captive audience’.’
      • ‘At its core, The Agenda is another book about how the days of selling to eager, captive customers are over.’
      • ‘I wanted revenge, but I could hear the suppressed laughter and snickering coming from my captive audience.’
      • ‘It's just plain exploitation of a captive audience.’
      • ‘I don't even begrudge them the 30 minutes' worth of commercials they subjected their captive audience to.’
      • ‘Like patients and pupils, motorists are a captive audience.’
      • ‘Again, it looks like the president is not appearing anywhere except with a captive audience in front of him.’
      • ‘Given a captive audience and a good percentage of business travellers it is easy for a hotel restaurant to get complacent, not so here.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘If it targets only a captive audience, the intelligentsia, it is an exercise in futility, he argues.’
      • ‘It's an opportunity for box holders to thank a captive audience for their loyalty, as well as fostering goodwill, generating new business and cementing working relationships.’
  • 2(of a facility or service) controlled by, and typically for the sole use of, an organization.

    ‘a captive power plant’
    • ‘Extended interswitching is intended to give captive shippers viable alternatives for rail transport.’
    • ‘However, instead of just setting up a massive captive development centre, it wants software developers to use its platform to come out with applications.’
    • ‘Hundreds of companies are setting up captive insurance units in receptive states.’
    • ‘Among the new operations is Euro Insurances, a captive company of Lease - Plan Corporation.’
    • ‘Fed up with expensive state assigned-risk pools, DDA rented a captive facility instead - and slashed its expenses by half.’
    • ‘This is a sector to watch very closely, with the industry having taken on tremendous debt loads to fund their captive finance companies.’
    • ‘The issue is particularly important for non-financial firms with captive finance companies.’
    • ‘UTI Bank is to open a captive call centre to be operational in the next financial year.’
    • ‘SDD, is a captive one, SCC being a captive supplier of SDD.’
    • ‘Company A and Company B relied on their own captive suppliers for the development of this subsystem.’
    • ‘Company leaders note there are independent dairy processors as well as captive dairies Dean Foods is interested in purchasing.’
    • ‘In Delhi, there would be about 73,000 IT professionals of Indian companies doing both captive and outsourcing jobs.’
    • ‘Perhaps they would have developed a captive equipment supplier base and tried to reap all the benefits exclusively.’
    • ‘To meet the power requirement of the plant Vedanta will construct a captive power plant with a capacity of 90 mega watt.’
    • ‘The option to captive offshoring is to outsource to a third party vendor abroad, something that is seen as being more cost effective and in some ways more painless.’
    • ‘The acquired company has a steel making capacity of 1m tonne, matching mills and associated infrastructure including a captive port.’
    • ‘To avoid heavy losses, the banks had their captive securities firms package the loans and sell them as securities to the proverbial widows and orphans.’
    • ‘The multinational firms included those with large captive business process outsourcing centres serving parent firms abroad.’
    • ‘The USA also retains residual regulation concerning captive shippers.’
    • ‘During this period, HAL also transformed itself into a commercial organisation from a captive industry, with improved efficiency and productivity.’
    • ‘Bank of America has firmed up plans to set up a captive BPO outfit in Hyderabad, which will begin operations next month.’
    • ‘The number of employees working in captive or in-house IT departments of user organisations which are non-IT firms, is around 280,000.’


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