mar·​tyr | \ ˈmär-tər How to pronounce martyr (audio) \

Definition of martyr

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a person who voluntarily suffers death as the penalty of witnessing to and refusing to renounce a religion
2 : a person who sacrifices something of great value and especially life itself for the sake of principle a martyr to the cause of freedom
3 : victim especially : a great or constant sufferer a martyr to asthma all his life — A. J. Cronin


martyred; martyring; martyrs

Definition of martyr (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to put to death for adhering to a belief, faith, or profession
2 : to inflict agonizing pain on : torture

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Other Words from martyr


martyrization \ ˌmär-​tə-​rə-​ˈzā-​shən How to pronounce martyrization (audio) \ noun
martyrize \ ˈmär-​tə-​ˌrīz How to pronounce martyrize (audio) \ transitive verb

Examples of martyr in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Morsi’s passing is likely to be used by Muslim Brotherhood leadership to resurrect his image as a martyr, said Pahwa, the analyst. Salma Islam,, "Morsi’s death in Egypt puts diminished Muslim Brotherhood back in spotlight," 24 June 2019 The man, a 35-year-old surnamed Leung, was immediately hailed as a martyr and his death brought even bigger crowds to the streets to mourn his passing. Amy Gunia, Time, "Hong Kong Leader Apologizes Amid Mounting Pressure to Resign," 18 June 2019 These are not the efforts of a misguided martyr, either. Ben Golliver, The Denver Post, "As Warriors’ injuries mount, Stephen Curry is picking up more of the slack," 5 June 2019 That should be enough to turn him into a living martyr for the people who loved his policies. Jennifer Wright, Harper's BAZAAR, "What Will Actually Happen to Trump?," 19 Dec. 2018 He was then clubbed to death, and has gone down in history as the definitive martyr. Washington Post Staff, Washington Post, "Behind the scenes with influential graphic artists from 50 years ago," 30 May 2018 Romero is one of 892 people canonized by Francis during his papacy (granted, most of these comprised more than 800 martyrs from the 15th century who were killed by invading Ottomans). Tara Isabella Burton, Vox, "Oscar Romero, a martyr for social justice and the newest Catholic saint, explained," 15 Oct. 2018 On December 13, the country commemorates St. Lucia, one of the earliest Christian martyrs, with a festival. Chloe Foussianes, Town & Country, "Sweden's Crown Princess Victoria Shares Adorable Photos of Her Children Celebrating St. Lucia Day," 13 Dec. 2018 While many orphans’ parents had died from car accidents or disease, an increasing number were becoming martyrs of the Christian faith. Marlo Safi, WSJ, "Is Sisi Good for Egypt’s Christians?," 10 Jan. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

For Islamist militants around the world, being martyred in an operation during Ramadan is considered especially heroic. New York Times, "India Declares a Rare Cease-Fire in Kashmir for Ramadan," 17 May 2018 Likewise, the prison diary of Vibia Perpetua of Carthage, who was martyred in 203 at the age of 21 after becoming a Christian convert, recorded both her inner thoughts and daily life, making her the founding mother of prison literature. Amanda Foreman, WSJ, "Literature Behind Bars," 12 July 2018 And the Islamic State militant group belatedly exalted him as a martyred disciple. Rick Gladstone, New York Times, "What Is Terrorism? Attacks in Canada and Belgium Reflect Uncertain Definition," 31 May 2018 The letter goes on: There has long been a traditional narrative of blaming, vilifying and martyring courageous women. Anna Silman, The Cut, "Celebrities Pen Powerful Open Letter Defending Asia Argento Against Misogynist Trolls," 13 July 2018 He was martyred by Emperor Nero in Rome for holding publicly to his Christian faith. Tara Isabella Burton, Vox, "The racist history of the Bible verse the White House uses to justify separating families," 15 June 2018 Carved wooden figure of St. Apollonia This statue, which dates from around the second half of the 19th century, shows poor St. Apollonia, a Christian from Alexandria, Egypt, who was martyred at the hands of the Romans in A.D. 249. Roslyn Sulcas, New York Times, "This Exhibition Has Real Bite," 7 June 2018 Its origins can be traced to a Greek Orthodox saint whose three daughters were martyred. Asher Fogle, Good Housekeeping, "The Real Meaning Behind 29 of the Most Popular Baby Names," 6 Jan. 2016 Yet at the height of the American occupation of neighboring Iraq, Assad encouraged Syrian jihadists to go martyr themselves by killing Americans. Christopher Dickey, New York Times, "War Without End," 6 Apr. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'martyr.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of martyr


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for martyr

Noun and Verb

Middle English, from Old English, from Late Latin, from Greek martyr-, martys witness

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Statistics for martyr

Last Updated

9 Jul 2019

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Time Traveler for martyr

The first known use of martyr was before the 12th century

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More Definitions for martyr



English Language Learners Definition of martyr

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a person who is killed or who suffers greatly for a religion, cause, etc.
disapproving : a person who pretends to suffer or who exaggerates suffering in order to get praise or sympathy
: a person who suffers greatly from something (such as an illness)



English Language Learners Definition of martyr (Entry 2 of 2)

: to kill (someone) for refusing to give up a belief or cause


mar·​tyr | \ ˈmär-tər How to pronounce martyr (audio) \

Kids Definition of martyr

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a person who suffers greatly or dies rather than give up his or her religion or principles


martyred; martyring

Kids Definition of martyr (Entry 2 of 2)

: to put to death for refusing to give up a belief

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More from Merriam-Webster on martyr

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with martyr

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for martyr

Spanish Central: Translation of martyr

Nglish: Translation of martyr for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of martyr for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about martyr

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