Definition of martyr in US English:



  • 1A person who is killed because of their religious or other beliefs.

    ‘saints, martyrs, and witnesses to the faith’
    • ‘Rather, martyrdom only makes sense when one takes seriously the martyrs ' religiosity.’
    • ‘Even as he suffers and dies he maintains his single-minded devotion to freedom, and in death he becomes a powerful martyr to the Scottish cause.’
    • ‘For that average believer did not doubt that God's grace had been spectacularly displayed in the courage of the martyrs.’
    • ‘Persecuted by the Romans for her religious beliefs, she died a martyr's death before the age of twenty.’
    • ‘Many today, even among the leaders of the religious world, claim that Christ died a martyr's death, suffering merely for his beliefs.’
    • ‘She began to believe that the suffragette cause needed an actual martyr to bring it the publicity it needed.’
    • ‘Mira rejected the official history that viewed her mother as a traitor, preferring instead to cast her as a martyr to the partisan cause.’
    • ‘But an anti-Mormon mob killed him that year, creating a martyr to the new faith.’
    • ‘They are the words of the martyrs, martyrdom being the frequent fate of prophets.’
    • ‘The temples were to be blessed, relics of the holy martyrs reserved therein, and used for Christian worship.’
    • ‘Not everyone who is killed is a martyr; some are merely victims.’
    • ‘French and Dutch Protestants claimed new martyrs in the religious and civil wars convulsing their countries.’
    • ‘His inclusion on the list of Christian martyrs has been proposed by the U.S. Catholic bishops, who have sent the names of more than two dozen Americans to Rome.’
    • ‘That, my guidebook tells me, is the one colour you really should not wear because it is associated with the enemy of the holy martyr.’
    • ‘If he dies he becomes a martyr to the cause.’
    • ‘A special exhibition of valuable and rare artefacts which trace the story of some of the saints and martyrs connected with York Minster has gone on display in the Minster Chapter House.’
    • ‘In the book of Revelation, the martyrs are vindicated by the descent of the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down from heaven to earth.’
    • ‘Succeeding chapters take the reader from entrance to the final mystery and revelation of the martyr's tomb within.’
    • ‘For a moment, the only stories that Andrew could think of involved early Christian martyrs.’
    • ‘He dies more or less a martyr to save a Christian friend.’
    1. 1.1 A person who displays or exaggerates their discomfort or distress in order to obtain sympathy or admiration.
      ‘she wanted to play the martyr’
      • ‘Those who love to play the martyr submerge their own personalities. They devote a lifetime to unnecessary servitude and privation.’
      • ‘He seemed to embrace the role of the free-speech martyr.’
      • ‘You so love to play the martyr though, don't you?’
      • ‘Suzie knows from experience that being a martyr to the workplace is an addiction, and she helps people break out of it.’
      • ‘I did say it would curtail my daytime internet surfing, adopting the air of a martyr to the communal good.’
      • ‘Some parents put their children first in order to play the martyr.’
      • ‘But she has that martyr complex… Sometimes she's like a walking children's book.’
      • ‘In her defense she said at the council meeting the report was tabled, she was ‘happy to be a martyr to the ratepayers of this area’.’
      • ‘Don't let yourself become attached to a martyr complex.’
      • ‘Instead, she becomes a martyr and as she does so we start to lose sympathy.’
      • ‘There are plenty of false martyrs out there that are completely unworthy of our sympathy.’
      • ‘The rumour then said that the failed registration was planned in order to make the leader look like a martyr and win the sympathy of the people.’
      • ‘On one extreme, we may decide to play the martyr -- to keep quiet and endure great pains so as not to create a scene or disrupt others.’
      • ‘Or do I play the martyr, fake genuine happiness, and stay because it's the best for our sons but not for me?’
      • ‘Or would she be left alone or converted as a martyr to the cause of achieving a work-family balance?’
      • ‘But I always thought that story had kind of a martyr complex.’
      • ‘Displaying all a martyr's egotism, she spoke of the inevitability of an outpouring of support or anger.’
      • ‘Striking the martyr pose is good public relations because it distracts attention from the real issues.’
      suffer from, be a constant sufferer from, have chronic …
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2martyr to A constant sufferer from (an ailment)
      ‘I'm a martyr to migraines!’
      • ‘Ever since he first stood upright, man has been a martyr to his back.’
      • ‘Emily, the mother is a martyr to migraine, which causes her to withdraw to her bedroom, her husband is frequently absent, pleading pressure of work.’
      • ‘It is a martyr to mildew however and I have found it grows best in damp soil with shade for at least part of the day.’
      • ‘Becoming a mother shouldn't mean being a martyr to pain but it often does.’
      • ‘Mr. Brown, who owned a china shop in Michigan, was a martyr to headaches.’


[with object]usually be martyred
  • 1Kill (someone) because of their beliefs.

    ‘she was martyred for her faith’
    • ‘He fought tooth and nail with terrorists killing three of them, but at last he was martyred.’
    • ‘Honestly, I did not know that your son was martyred recently; I was told that he passed away a couple of months back.’
    • ‘‘Our two security guards were martyred and the suicide bomber was killed,’ said the witness.’
    • ‘He was martyred after refusing to persecute Christians and became a patron saint of soldiers.’
    • ‘‘Eighty-five of our fighters were martyred in the raid,’ he said.’
    • ‘Even if we grant that Peter was martyred in Rome, his body is unlikely to have been recovered for burial, or his grave ever marked.’
    • ‘The day he was martyred, there was a demonstration after school.’
    • ‘The original tradition involving hunting wrens stems from the belief of the ancient Irish that a wren betrayed St Stephen's hiding place to the Romans, who martyred him.’
    • ‘Indeed, martyring its leaders and destroying infrastructure may only strengthen the enemy's cause.’
    • ‘My son was martyred and his cousin survived to tell us the story.’
    • ‘If the person is martyred or its equivalent (death during childbirth, by plague, or from an accident), the body is not cleansed and is buried as it fell.’
    • ‘However, in 1539 he was martyred, being burnt alive in Innsbruck on direct orders from Emperor Ferdinand I.’
    • ‘Huge basilicas jutted from the encroaching sands, monuments to a Christian soldier martyred by his Roman comrades.’
    • ‘If he is martyred - as seems inevitable - others will almost certainly rise to fill his shoes.’
    • ‘He was martyred after six months in the hospital in Jordan.’
    • ‘I found out all about this after he was martyred.’
    • ‘And then, too, to be candid about it, the fact that he was martyred made him more popular than he ever was in lifetime.’
    • ‘He was martyred in 362 under Julian the Apostate.’
    • ‘Did you know that more than 500 people were martyred in the Netherlands between 1530 and 1555 for espousing Reformation convictions?’
    • ‘It is supposed to be on the spot where Peter was martyred that a basilica was built.’
    put to death, kill, make a martyr of, martyrize
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    1. 1.1 Cause great pain or distress to.
      ‘there was no need to martyr themselves again’
      • ‘Her poor, martyred heart is then subjected to all the glorious pains of unfulfilled love we associate with the Petrarchan traditions of the late Elizabethan era.’
      • ‘Don't continue to martyr yourself for an absent ex. Going out of your way to make him look good when he's a horrible father isn't doing anyone any favors.’
      • ‘Only fools martyr themselves needlessly.’
      • ‘Do not martyr yourself, as you will only be resented for doing so! All of the children will benefit from the role model of a mother who takes her own needs seriously.’
      • ‘You have the right to martyr yourself if you like, but NO ONE has the right to martyr their children!’


Old English martir, via ecclesiastical Latin from Greek martur ‘witness’ (in Christian use, ‘martyr’).