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martyr

[mahr-ter]
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noun
  1. a person who willingly suffers death rather than renounce his or her religion.
  2. a person who is put to death or endures great suffering on behalf of any belief, principle, or cause: a martyr to the cause of social justice.
  3. a person who undergoes severe or constant suffering: a martyr to severe headaches.
  4. a person who seeks sympathy or attention by feigning or exaggerating pain, deprivation, etc.
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verb (used with object)
  1. to make a martyr of, especially by putting to death.
  2. to torment or torture.
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Origin of martyr

before 900; (noun) Middle English marter, Old English martyr < Late Latin < Late Greek mártyr, variant of Greek mártys, mártyros witness; (v.) Middle English martiren, Old English martyrian, derivative of noun
Related formsmar·tyr·ish, adjectivemar·tyr·ly, adverb, adjectiveun·mar·tyred, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words

scapegoat, victim, saint, offering, sufferer

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British Dictionary definitions for martyr

martyr

noun
  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
  3. a person who suffers from poor health, misfortune, etche's a martyr to rheumatism
  4. facetious, or derogatory a person who feigns suffering to gain sympathy, help, etc
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verb Also: 'martyrˌize, 'martyrˌise (tr)
  1. to kill as a martyr
  2. to make a martyr of
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Derived Formsmartyrization or martyrisation, noun

Word Origin

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

Word Origin and History for martyr

n.

Old English martyr, from Late Latin martyr, from Doric Greek martyr, earlier martys (genitive martyros) in Christian use "martyr," literally "witness," probably related to mermera "care, trouble," from mermairein "be anxious or thoughtful," from PIE *(s)mrtu- (cf. Sanskrit smarati "remember," Latin memor "mindful;" see memory).

Adopted directly into most Germanic languages, but Norse substituted native formation pislarvattr, literally "torture-witness." General sense of "constant sufferer" is from 1550s. Martyr complex "exaggerated desire for self-sacrifice" is attested from 1920.

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v.

Old English martyrian, from martyr (see martyr (n.)). Middle English also had a verb martyrize.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper