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1) n. money paid to a kidnapper in demand for the release of the person abducted. Ransom money can also be paid to return a valuable object such as a stolen painting. 2) v. to pay money to an abductor to return the person held captive. (See: kidnapping, abduction)

Copyright © 1981-2005 by Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill. All Right reserved.

RANSOM, contracts, war. An agreement made between the commander of a capturing vessel with the commander of a vanquished vessel, at sea, by which the former permits the latter to depart with his vessel, and gives him a safe conduct, in consideration of a sum of money, which the commander of the vanquished vessel, in his own name, and in the name of the owners of his vessel and cargo, promises to pay at a future time named, to the other.
     2. This contract is usually made in writing in duplicate, one of which is kept by the vanquished vessel which is its safe conduct; and the other by the conquering vessel, which is properly called ransom bill.
     3. This contract, when made in good faith, and not locally prohibited, is valid, and may be enforced. Such contracts have never been prohibited in this country. 1 Kent, Com. 105. In England they are generally forbidden. Chit. Law of Nat. 90 91; Poth. Tr. du Dr. de Propr. n. 127. Vide 2 Bro. Civ. Law, 260; Wesk. 435; 7 Com. Dig. 201; Marsh. Ins. 431; 2 Dall. 15; 15 John. 6; 3 Burr. 1734. The money paid for the redemption of such property is also called the ransom.

A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States. By John Bouvier. Published 1856.
References in periodicals archive ?
Suzie Devey, 47, from North Field Close, was fast-tracked to the King's Ransom final when she discovered a golden key hidden in the Horsforth Pub in Leeds.
LEYTON Orient chairman Barry Hearn has told Premier League suitors that it will take 'a king's ransom' to sign 20-yearold winger Moses Odubaj this summer.
While we have no royal family we have a small army of hereditary hangers-on who cost us a king's ransom.
Those sensible enough not to shell out a king's ransom for six weeks in New Zealand will rely on TV to follow Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales.
I find this very depressing." Presumably this is not the same Jeremy Paxman who is paid a king's ransom to present programmes on, er, TV.
When you've been on job seekers allowance, you can rest assured that even the minimum wage is viewed as the king's ransom. Make sure all staff pull their weight and give them the option of the door if they don't.
In what other industry would we expect skilled workers to have charge of livestock or complex and dangerous machinery worth a king's ransom yet pay them less than pounds 7 an hour?
She had just been awarded what most of us would regard as a king's ransom. She will never again have to wake up in the night wondering if the bailiffs are coming.
The treble, starting with Recalcitrant, followed by his 100 on selling winner King's Ransom before Sir Mark Prescott teed him up with another handicap snip Caravel, also took him past 50 winners at the track in the last five seasons.
While I love Steve Bruce as a man, I'm afraid he sadly lacks judgement having sold three excellent players for a pittance - Andy Johnson, Geoff Horsfield and Darren Carter whom the Bluenoses all loved - and then spent a king's ransom on the above three forwards who at best are of dubious quality, as has been proved in the last 11 games.
And while that is hardly a king's ransom by modern standards, Leonessa chiefs hope Llewellyn may be attracted by the lifestyle change as well as the rugby challenge.
"We're saving a king's ransom by no longer handling inventory that is in far in excess of our need," said Cohen.