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

  • transitive v. To seize and detain unlawfully and usually for ransom.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • v. To seize and detain a person unlawfully; sometimes for ransom.
  • n. An instance of kidnapping.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

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

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

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

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


Probably kid + nap, to snatch (perhaps variant of nab and or of Scandinavian origin).
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From kid ("child") + nap ("nab, grab") (Wiktionary)



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

    April 8, 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

  • 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

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

    April 6, 2008