[ mahr-ter ]
See synonyms for: martyrmartyredmartyring on

  1. a person who willingly suffers death rather than renounce their religion.

  2. a person who is put to death or endures great suffering on behalf of any belief, principle, or cause: Her death has made her a martyr to the cause of social justice.

  1. a person who undergoes severe or constant suffering: The patient was a martyr to severe headaches.

  2. a person who seeks sympathy or attention by feigning or exaggerating pain, deprivation, etc.

verb (used with object)
  1. to persecute for supporting a belief or cause, especially by putting to death.

  2. to torment or torture.

Origin of martyr

First recorded before 900; Middle English noun martir, marter, Old English martyr from Old French and Late Latin, from Late Greek mártyr, dialect variant of Greek mártys, mártyros “witness”; verb derivative of noun

Other words from martyr

  • mar·tyr·ish, adjective
  • mar·tyr·ly, adverb, adjective
  • un·mar·tyred, adjective

Words Nearby martyr Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use martyr in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for martyr


/ (ˈmɑːtə) /

  1. a person who suffers death rather than renounce his religious beliefs

  2. a person who suffers greatly or dies for a cause, belief, etc

  1. a person who suffers from poor health, misfortune, etc: he's a martyr to rheumatism

  2. facetious, or derogatory a person who feigns suffering to gain sympathy, help, etc

verbAlso: 'martyrˌize, 'martyrˌise (tr)
  1. to kill as a martyr

  2. to make a martyr of

Origin of martyr

Old English martir, from Church Latin martyr, from Late Greek martur-, martus witness

Derived forms of martyr

  • martyrization or martyrisation, noun

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012