In the dictionary,

ransom: money that is paid to somebody so that they will set free a person who is being kept as a prisoner by them

It seems like "ransom" is for people, for example, "They kidnapped the kid for ransom".

Now, a man stole a "17th century vase" but he didn't want to sell it but called the owner of the vase and asked for a ransom.

Is it correct to say "he stole an antique for ransom"?

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    The definition you link to includes an example referring to cattle; most online dictionaries say 'someone or something'. Feb 3 at 17:11
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    Erm... ransomeware, anyone? Feb 3 at 17:33

1 Answer 1


It's not wrong to say "stole (something) for ransom" but a much more common phrasing is to say that it was stolen, and held for ransom; held is by far the most common collocation with ransom, so anything else sounds unusual.

Ransom is usually applied to humans, but not always: Cambridge dictionary says

a sum of money demanded in exchange for someone or something that has been taken

Ransom is so normally applied only to people that anything else sounds strange; Ngrams doesn't even list "it" as a common object of was held for ransom or was ransomed.

But you can find it being used for other objects:

Bounce house company owner says thieves stole equipment, holding it for ransom

A Kent County, Mich., woman said her treasured Jesus statue has been returned after it was held for ransom over doggie doo.

In conclusion: Yes, you can use ransom with objects, but the more common phrasing is "held for ransom", not "stolen for ransom".

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