I have watched the 2 films "Plane" and "Shotgun Wedding".

In these films, there is a group of people who holds hostage for ransom. And people in the films call them "pirates" although these groups hold hostage on land.

In "Shotgun", the group held people at a wedding near a beach in the Philippines and in "Plane" the group held people who survived from a plane accident on an island in the Philippines.

In both cases, there is no "ship" involved, but they still called them "pirates"

What do we call a group of people who holds hostage for ransom?

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    I think you mean shotgun! Commented Mar 15, 2023 at 10:06
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    As for why films might use the word "pirates", the term is normally restricted to actions at sea, but both films are set in an area where there are a lot of pirates (around the Philippines islands and the South China Sea). So the villains may be pirates as well as kidnappers.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Mar 15, 2023 at 10:27
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    'Hostage takers' is very often used, with or without a hyphen: The hostage-takers were members of the Democratic Revolutionary Front for the Liberation of Arabistan, The hostage takers were growing frustrated that little was being done to meet their demands, The hostage-takers were captured in a spectacular raid, The hostage takers were arguing among themselves and army commandos took the chance to reclaim the police station at 12.30 local time. Commented Mar 15, 2023 at 10:32
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    It's a gun that fires "shots" not a gun that is "short" in size, although it kind of works too :))
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Mar 15, 2023 at 20:58
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    @Mari-LouA, at the risk of prolonging a tangent, a shotgun fires shot (mass noun), not shots. Unless you're in that kind of bar... Commented Mar 16, 2023 at 14:54

4 Answers 4


The general term for people who take hostages is hostage-takers. See Michael Harvey's comment for additional examples.

The sentence below would be very common in a news article covering the hostages.

The hostage-takers were growing frustrated that little was being done to meet their demands.

The general term, however, is not always the term that will be used. If there is a more specific term that would describe the hostage-takers, that term might be used instead. If we know the hostage-takers are pirates who menace the surrounding seas, we might call them pirates. If we know the hostage-takers are revolutionaries at war with their government, we might call them rebels.

It is important to remember that if the group is described as something else, rebels for example, you have to explicitly mention that they have taken hostages. Just calling them rebels will not convey that they have taken hostages.



Google Translate:

kid·nap·per /ˈkidˌnapər/


a person who abducts someone and holds them captive, typically to obtain a ransom.

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    Kidnappers take one or more people away (abduct them) from their home, parents, etc, and keep them prisoner somewhere else (a secret place), usually demanding a ransom of money or compliance with a request, often political. A gang or group of people who capture or hold one or more people in a place and keep them there for some reason are usually called 'hostage-takers' or 'hostage takers'. Commented Mar 15, 2023 at 10:49
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    @MichaelHarvey Kidnapping often has an element of transportation, but in some cases may occur by simply confining or isolating someone. Colloquially, I agree bank robbers who hold hostages in the vault would be best described as hostage-takers, but legally they may be kidnappers. Another issue here is that kidnapping doesn't necessarily imply an external demand like hostage-taking does - kidnapping may be an end in itself, but hostage-taking typically is not. Commented Mar 16, 2023 at 15:51
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    A kidnapper normally works by concealment rather than threat. The law normally knows where the hostage-takers are, they are just deterred by the risk of dead hostages if they assault the place. Commented Mar 16, 2023 at 23:35
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    "Hostage taking is defined as the seizing or detention of an individual coupled with a threat to kill, injure or continue to detain such individual in order to compel a third person or governmental organization to take some action." justice.gov/archives/jm/…
    – Mazura
    Commented Mar 17, 2023 at 0:47
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    Kidnapping : "(a) Whoever unlawfully seizes, confines, inveigles, decoys, kidnaps, abducts, or carries away and holds for ransom or reward or otherwise any person, except in the case of a minor by the parent thereof, when [...]" law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/1201 ... There's considerable overlap and they both have statutes, 18 U.S. Code : 1201 and 1203.
    – Mazura
    Commented Mar 17, 2023 at 0:47

Aggravated kidnappers. The common law definition of kidnapping only requires a threat of force (or actual force) and moving the victim. A ransom demand aggravates the crime. And in most US jurisdictions raises the penalty to life imprisonment.

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    – Community Bot
    Commented Mar 15, 2023 at 18:24
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    Hi. I didn't downvote. My criticism would be that "aggravated" is a legal word that only applies in some countries. There are kidnappers all over the world and in some places the concept of "aggravated" may not exist. That's why I prefer the answer by @holydragon Commented Mar 15, 2023 at 21:02
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    Even in the US "aggravated kidnapping" is not universal. States have different laws and names. My state doesn't have aggravated kidnapping, only first or second degree, and ransom plays no factor, and it doesn't bring life.
    – user71659
    Commented Mar 15, 2023 at 22:10
  • This is a legal definition, not an English-usage definition. Commented Mar 16, 2023 at 23:35

If it's on land, bandits. I know it's an old-fashioned word, but it's an old-fashioned practice.

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    To me, bandit means armed robber. (The original meaning of bandito in Italian was an outlawed marauder.)
    – Davislor
    Commented Mar 15, 2023 at 23:00
  • It isn't an old-fashioned practice. Just watch the TV news.
    – Chenmunka
    Commented Mar 16, 2023 at 15:11

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