from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • transitive verb To abduct or confine (a person) forcibly, by threat of force, or by deceit, without the authority of law.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To steal, abduct, or carry off forcibly (a human being, whether man, woman, or child). In law it sometimes implies a carrying beyond the jurisdiction.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • transitive verb To take (any one) by force or fear, and against one's will, with intent to carry to another place.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • verb transitive To seize and detain a person unlawfully; sometimes for ransom.
  • noun An instance of kidnapping.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • verb take away to an undisclosed location against their will and usually in order to extract a ransom


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[kid, child + nap, to snatch (perhaps variant of nab or of Scandinavian origin ).]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From kid ("child") + nap ("nab, grab")


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  • How do you figure this as a backformation, reesetee?

    April 6, 2008

  • According to the OED, it's believed to be a backformation of kidnapper: "f. KID + NAP v., to snatch, seize (cf. NAB)." Apparently it evolved into a verb form from the noun.

    April 7, 2008

  • Recent evidence suggests it actually traces back to medieval English, and a common hunting prank among the noble set.

    Tethered young goats were used as bait to attract bears, wolves and other predators. The hunter or gamekeeper would often nap within earshot of the kid while waiting for the beast to show up, at which point the kid would make a ruckus, waking the napper and bringing the bear (or whatnot) to its speedy demise. Of course, it was the work of a moment for a neighboring squire to instead make off with the kid -- thus, kidnap. Also the origin of the phrase, to get your goat.

    April 8, 2008

  • Ah, another expert in madeupical etymology. :-)

    April 8, 2008