As I read at http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/kidnap, the etymology for kidnap is

kid (“child”) + nap (“nab, grab”)

Can an adult person also be kidnapped? Would it sound funny to say so? The definition mentions person, not child, but I'm not sure. (In my language we have a borrowed word kidnapper, but I only heard it referring to someone who abducted children or house pets, probably because the users of the word recognised the kid stem in it.)

  • 3
    just to add to the answers; kidnap would more strongly suggest a ransom, whereas abduct might not. The distinction is not absolute, though. Commented Dec 3, 2014 at 16:38
  • 3
    And here I was, thinking that "kidnappers" are people who force kids to take a nap... Commented Dec 3, 2014 at 18:07
  • 2
    Related: english.stackexchange.com/q/60898/24041
    – Cat
    Commented Dec 4, 2014 at 4:51
  • 2
    @Thrax "Spirited away" has no religious connotations. Commented Dec 4, 2014 at 11:59
  • 2
    Kidnapping could also refer to stealing someone's baby goat. Commented Dec 4, 2014 at 16:11

3 Answers 3


It is normal to use "kidnap" in a non-child context. It does not sound strange at all, and it is actually the correct legal term for the crime, which is not specific to children:

The crime of unlawfully seizing and carrying away a person...

"Abducting" is a common synonym for "kidnapping".

Sometimes the "kid" in "kidnapping" is replaced by some other noun, as in "dognapping". This is often used seriously (as dognapping is) but may be slightly humorous in more bizarre or trivial circumstances, like pignapping or lappynapping.

  • 5
    What about catnapping? :) Commented Dec 4, 2014 at 9:48
  • 2
    @Vixen Catnapping is usually used to mean a "cat nap" (to sleep), and not a "cat kidnap" (to abduct). Commented Dec 4, 2014 at 19:30
  • @ZekeSonxx 'Kitnapped', perhaps? :P
    – Damien H
    Commented Dec 5, 2014 at 0:57
  • @ZekeSonxx: I know, I just found it amusing :) Commented Dec 5, 2014 at 8:05

Yes. Though the etymology suggests that it is derived from "Kid"(might be because initially only kids were kidnapped), it is generally used to refer the act of taking someone illegally by force.

If it sounds wrong to you, you could use synonyms like "Abduct" or "held captive" or "held in captivity".


The Wiktionary definition states:

  1. (transitive) To seize and detain a person unlawfully; sometimes for ransom.

Source: Definition of “kidnap” on wiktionary.org

Despite the origins, the word is commonly used in cases where adults are taken.

We can all hear “kid” when we say “kidnap” though, so sometimes people will make formations based on the “-nap” suffix. Examples include “dognap”, and “catnap”, (note that the latter might confuse people as the term is more common as a noun meaning a “brief, light sleep” or as an intransitive verb meaning “to take a catnap”). You can also form verbs like this on the fly: Who cup-napped my favorite mug?

The formal term is properly “kidnap” in the case of any person being abducted.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .