Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun One who chooses to suffer death rather than renounce religious principles.
  • noun One who makes great sacrifices or suffers much in order to further a belief, cause, or principle.
  • noun One who endures great suffering.
  • noun One who makes a great show of suffering in order to arouse sympathy.
  • transitive verb To make a martyr of, especially to put to death for devotion to religious beliefs.
  • transitive verb To inflict great pain on; torment.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun Originally, a witness; one who bears testimony to his faith.
  • noun One who willingly suffers death rather than surrender his religious faith; one who bears witness to the sincerity of his faith by submitting to death in asserting it; specifically, one of those Christians who in former times were put to death because they would not renounce their religious belief: as, Stephen was the first martyr (called the protomartyr); the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.
  • noun One who suffers death or grievous loss in defense or on behalf of any belief or cause, or in consequence of supporting it: as, he died a martyr to his political principles or to his devotion to science.
  • noun Hence One who suffers greatly from any cause; one who is afflicted; a victim of misfortune, calamity, or disease: as, a martyr to gout, or to tight lacing.
  • noun [⟨ martyr, v.] An old instrument of torture in which the victim was subjected to agonizing pressure.
  • noun In wine-making, a wooden box used for pressing grapes.
  • To put to death as a punishment for adherence to some religious belief, especially for adherence to Christianity; hence, to put to death for the maintaining of any obnoxious belief or cause.
  • To put to death for any cause; destroy, as in revenge or retaliation; torture.
  • To persecute as a martyr; afflict; despoil; torment.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun One who, by his death, bears witness to the truth of the gospel; one who is put to death for his religion.
  • noun Hence, one who sacrifices his life, his station, or what is of great value to him, for the sake of principle, or to sustain a cause.
  • transitive verb To put to death for adhering to some belief, esp. Christianity; to sacrifice on account of faith or profession.
  • transitive verb To persecute; to torment; to torture.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun One who willingly accepts being put to death for adhering openly to one's religious beliefs; notably, saints canonized after martyrdom.
  • noun by extension One who sacrifices his or her life, station, or what is of great value to him or her, for the sake of principle or to sustain a cause.
  • noun One who suffers greatly and/or constantly, even involuntarily.
  • verb transitive To make someone into a martyr by putting him or her to death for adhering to, or acting in accordance with, some belief, especially religious; to sacrifice on account of faith or profession.
  • verb transitive To persecute.
  • verb transitive To torment; to torture.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun one who voluntarily suffers death as the penalty for refusing to renounce their religion
  • verb kill as a martyr
  • verb torture and torment like a martyr
  • noun one who suffers for the sake of principle

Etymologies

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English, from Old English, from Late Latin, from Late Greek martur, from Greek martus, martur-, witness.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English, from Old English, itself from Latin martyr, from Ancient Greek μάρτυρ (martyr), later form of μάρτυς (martus, "witness").

Examples

  • "Have a care that in being such, you do not become a martyr to love, the _martyr of a woman_."

    Venus in Furs

  • Well, you may think of Jesus and Joan of Arc when you hear the term martyr, but Mademoiselle and her friends are using a stricter definition of the term.

    UNHINGED|| DVD Review: Martyrs

  • But today, we most often hear the word martyr used to describe Islamic radicals who commit unspeakable mass atrocities against innocent people while dementedly chanting “Allahu Akhbar, Allahu Akhbar, Allahu Akhbar” “Allah is greatest” to drown out what little is left of their conscience.

    HOW EVIL WORKS

  • But today, we most often hear the word martyr used to describe Islamic radicals who commit unspeakable mass atrocities against innocent people while dementedly chanting “Allahu Akhbar, Allahu Akhbar, Allahu Akhbar” “Allah is greatest” to drown out what little is left of their conscience.

    HOW EVIL WORKS

  • When Al-Jazeera freely uses the term martyr for Iraqi casualties and invaders pretty much as a blanket statement for U.S. and U.K. forces, do you have a problem with that?

    CNN Transcript Apr 7, 2003

  • The term martyr refers to people who were killed ...

    CNN Transcript Apr 12, 2002

  • I don't know where you get the term martyr to equate it with suicide bombings.

    CNN Transcript Apr 12, 2002

  • Yet the term martyr was still sometimes applied during the third century to persons still living, as, for instance, by St. Cyprian, who gave the title of martyrs to a number of bishops, priests, and laymen condemned to penal servitude in the mines (Ep. 76).

    The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 9: Laprade-Mass Liturgy

  • Church, that the term martyr came to be exclusively applied to those who had died for the faith.

    The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 9: Laprade-Mass Liturgy

  • All the emphasis was on dialogue and the civilized exchange of ideas, and though the word martyr was indeed used to describe those who laid down their lives in the struggle, the cult of human sacrifice for its own sake was not in evidence.

    Slate Magazine

Comments

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  • "Like a pale martyr in his shirt of fire."

    Alexander Smith (1830-1867) - A Life of Drama, ii

    September 20, 2009