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

Other Words from martyr


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

Examples of martyr in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun While Congress has few issues of bipartisan agreement, holding the Palestinian leadership accountable for prisoner and martyr payments is one. Sander Gerber And Michael Koplow, WSJ, 12 July 2022 Trump could lose the GOP primary in 2024 and still be treated as a hero and a martyr in Republican circles. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, 30 June 2022 Think too hard and you’ll get lost in a moral malaise over the decadence of these times when a young woman who was pursued to her death in a Paris tunnel becomes both a martyr and fodder for endlessly profitable objectification. Chris Jones,, 18 Nov. 2021 Anyone who can unite people around an idea while living will become a martyr in death, especially when the town searches for answers once the evil threat becomes apparent to them in Season 5. Keith Nelson, Men's Health, 5 July 2022 The quest for significance can also be triggered by an opportunity for substantial gain – becoming a hero, a martyr, a superstar. Arie Kruglanski, The Conversation, 19 May 2022 Not on her daughter, Joan, who became a soldier, a martyr and, nearly 500 years after her death, a saint. David L. Coddon, San Diego Union-Tribune, 30 Apr. 2022 Donziger’s story, turning him into an icon of environmental activism, and a martyr of corporate sabotage. P.j. Mccormick, Rolling Stone, 3 June 2022 Chou is hardly holding up his feisty hero as a martyr or savior. Sheri Linden, The Hollywood Reporter, 26 May 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb As for the food and cleanup, don’t martyr yourself. Carolyn Hax, Washington Post, 24 July 2022 Catanzara’s potential ouster as a Chicago police officer could also martyr him to supporters in the FOP who see him as an outspoken foe of the Lightfoot administration. Jeremy Gorner,, 14 Nov. 2021 Ursula, legend holds, was a British princess martyred in Germany in the 4th century, along with as many as 11,000 of her holy companions. T. Edward Nickens, Field & Stream, 27 May 2020 The name speaks to a cherished legend about 11,000 virgins, followers of St. Ursula, who arrived in town by boat in medieval times and were eventually martyred in Cologne. Dave Seminara, New York Times, 20 Feb. 2020 The Catholic Church recognized at least three different saints with the same Roman name, all of whom were later martyred. cleveland, 10 Feb. 2020 Start the story with Emiliano Zapata, the peasant leader from a village in the central state of Morelos, who was tricked into a military ambush and martyred in 1919. Peter Schjeldahl, The New Yorker, 24 Feb. 2020 The search launched Friday, Valentine's Day, a holiday that commemorates the day Saint Valentine was martyred. Ella Torres, ABC News, 14 Feb. 2020 Commemorations culminated in Ashura, on the tenth of the month, when Hussein was martyred. The Economist, 28 Jan. 2020 See More

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.

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

Learn More About martyr

Time Traveler for martyr

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near martyr




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for martyr

Last Updated

2 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Martyr.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 11 Aug. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for martyr


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

Kids Definition of martyr

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a person who suffers greatly or dies for a religion or cause


martyred; martyring

Kids Definition of martyr (Entry 2 of 2)

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


Test Your Vocabulary

The Great British Vocabulary Quiz

  • union jack speech bubble
  • Named after Sir Robert Peel, what are British police called?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!