Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference between Hijack and Kidnap


What is the difference between ‘hijack’ and ‘kidnap’?  Both words are verbs and mean to steal or take control without permission.  Although the words are used in a similar context and often together, there is a very significant difference to understand in the usage of each of the words.

To kidnap is to abduct or steal a person or people by force or without consent and take them as a prisoner.  For example:  The man was accused of kidnapping the young woman while she was jogging.   It is commonly used to describe people in a hostage situation.  A ‘hostage’ is a kidnapped person.  The captor demands that something be done to free the person or people they have taken control over.  Usually a ransom of money other exchange of valuables is requested to be paid in order for the hostages or kidnapped people to be returned.  For example:  The group kidnapped several people and held them hostage, demanding that a million dollars be paid to them for the safe return of the hostages.

To hijack is to stop and take a means of conveyance by force.  A person or group of people gain and take control over it.  ‘Conveyance’ refers to a vehicle or means of transportation, such as an airplane, car, truck, boat, etc.  Criminals hijack a vehicle to use it for their own purposes rather than the purpose that it was intended for.   For example:  The terrorists hijacked the airplane and flew it to another country.  It can also be used to mean something that is taken from a vehicle, but this is a lesson common usage.  For example:  The robbers hijacked the load of merchandise from the delivery truck.  ‘Hijack’ never, though, refers to a person taken from a vehicle.  It also never refers to things that are stolen from a stationary place, like a bank, a house or a store.  Hijacking specifically has to involve a mobile form of transportation for people or things.

In the case of something being hijacked that contains a passenger or passengers, such as a bus, ship or airplane, we could now consider those people hostages.  As hostages, these people are being kidnapped, because they are being taken somewhere against their will.  For example:  The terrorists that hijacked the airplane also kidnapped the passengers and held them for ransom.  In this circumstance, very often hijacking and kidnapping are used in connection with each other.

So when decided which word is best to use, remember that ‘kidnap’ is used when a person has been taken away by force, but ‘hijack’ is used when a vehicle is taken over by force or something is stolen from it.  Kidnapping happens to people, but hijacking happens to things.

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