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

The movie opens with her on the shoot for her 1957 debut, Saint Joan, chained to the stake as the French martyr in a scene where a special effects accident caused her to sustain burn injuries. David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Seberg': Film Review | Venice 2019," 30 Aug. 2019 Among those the group works with are the children of the 2015 martyrs. Marlo Safi, WSJ, "Is Sisi Good for Egypt’s Christians?," 10 Jan. 2019 Nagasaki, in southwestern Japan, is rich in the legacy of Christian missionaries dating back to the samurai era, including 26 martyrs killed in 1597. Washington Post, "The Latest: Pope to meet with emperor, Abe while in Japan," 13 Sep. 2019 Of course, there will be no rounding up of Christians in the United States under a socialist or any other plausible administration, which is not to say that conservatives won’t find among themselves new martyrs. Osita Nwanevu, The New Republic, "The Right Wing’s Cultural Civil War Is a Drag," 9 Sep. 2019 On the other side, another procession of 26 martyrs is believed to be the oldest existing mosaic depicting the New Testament. Prathap Nair, National Geographic, "Visit Italy’s mesmerizing city of mosaics," 20 Aug. 2019 Velentzas praised the terrorism of September 11, 2001, and said being a martyr through a suicide attack guaranteed entrance into heaven, according to the release. Jay Croft, CNN, "2 women plead guilty in plot to commit terror attack in US," 24 Aug. 2019 His latest delves into the strange case of Mikhail Khodorkovsky once believed to be the richest man in Russia, who rose to prosperity in the 1990s before serving a decade in prison for fraud and becoming an unlikely martyr to the anti-Putin cause. David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter, "Critic's Picks: Venice Film Festival's 8 Most Anticipated Premieres," 23 Aug. 2019 Li had mourned too, perhaps more than many, because Zhou had cared for him as a child after his father had been killed, a martyr in the revolutionary struggle. The Economist, "Obituary: Li Peng died on July 22nd," 25 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Its revelations are from the mid-1960s, at the height of the civil-rights movement, the years before King was martyred and canonized, his name bestowed upon a national holiday and a thousand avenues and high schools. Lance Morrow, WSJ, "A Reckoning With Martin Luther King," 17 June 2019 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

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

15 Oct 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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