Increasing evidence has indicated that long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) are a class of significant regulators in various tumorigenesis processes. The lncRNA homeobox transcript antisense RNA (HOTAIR) has been reported to act as a functional lncRNA in cervical cancer development. The present study investigated the underlying mechanism of HOTAIR and miR-17-5p in cervical cancer tumorigenesis. The results showed that HOTAIR expression was significantly upregulated in both cervical cancer tissues and cell lines. Loss-of-function experiments showed that HOTAIR knockdown inhibited the proliferation, migration, and invasion of cervical cells. In addition, miR-17-5p expression was downregulated in cervical cancer tissues and cell lines. Pearson's correlation analysis indicated that miR-17-5p expression was negatively correlated to that of HOTAIR. Luciferase reporter assay revealed that miR-17-5p directly targeted HOTAIR 3'-UTR. Rescue experiments showed that miR-17-5p knockdown could reverse the tumor-suppressing effect caused by si-HOTAIR transfection. In summary, our results reveal the tumor-promoting role of HOTAIR in cervical cancer via sponging miR-17-5p, providing a novel therapeutic target for future treatment of cervical cancer.