• kidnap •
Pronunciation: kid-næp • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb
Meaning: This verb could refer to a short sleep by a child, but it actually means to forcibly capture a person (child or adult) and hold them for ransom. We hijack vehicles but kidnap people.
Notes: This is a verb that doubles up on its final consonants before most suffixes: kidnaps but kidnapped, kidnapping, and kidnapper. In our eternal quest for more specificity, we have expanded kidnap into dognap, catnap (despite the resulting ambiguities), and various other types of napping.
In Play: The basic use of this Good Word is obvious: "The kidnappers were dismayed to discover that they had kidnapped the wrong person." However, we have to use our imaginations to find metaphorical applications: "Be careful talking around Owen Cash; he kidnaps the ideas of others and passes them on as his own."
Word History: Today's word is very straightforward: it comes from the phrase "to nap (or nab) a kid". It may surprise you to know that it was first used in the 17th century. At that time, it meant to shanghai (another interesting word) a child from the slums of England for work on plantations in the Americas. Nab became nap by simply dropping the voicing (vibration of the vocal cords).