Definition: Martyr

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From Middle English martir, from Old English martyr, itself a borrowing from Ecclesiastical Latin martyr, from Ancient Greek μάρτυρ or mártur, later form of μάρτυς or mártus (witness).


martyr (plural martyrs)

  1. One who willingly accepts being put to death for adhering openly to one's religious beliefs; notably, saints canonized after martyrdom.
    Saint Stephen was the first Christian martyr.
  2. One who sacrifices their life, station, or something of great personal value, for the sake of principle or to sustain a cause.
  3. One who suffers greatly and/or constantly, even involuntarily.
    Stan is a martyr to arthritis, Chris a martyr to Stan's endless moaning about it.

Derived terms

  • martyrdom
  • martyress
  • martyrial
  • martyrize
  • martyrizer
  • martyrless
  • martyrly
  • martyrolatry
  • martyrship

Related terms

  • martyrdom
  • martyrion
  • martyrium
  • martyrologue
  • martyrology
  • martyry


martyr (third-person singular simple present martyrs, present participle martyring, simple past and past participle martyred)

  1. To make someone into a martyr by putting them to death for adhering to, or acting in accordance with, some belief, especially religious; to sacrifice on account of faith or profession.
  2. To persecute.
    Some religious and other minorities were martyred until extinction.
  3. To torment; to torture.

Derived terms

  • martyrer


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