The Meaning of Martyr: What It Is and How To Use It

What does it mean if someone is a martyr? Is being a martyr a good thing or a bad thing? This article will define the meaning of martyr and more!

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What does it mean to be a martyr, literally and figuratively? In this article, you will learn about both meanings of the word martyr. Then, you will learn about the connotation of the word martyr and how to use it in a sentence. Finally, this article will list synonyms, translations, and antonyms of the word martyr. 

Keep reading to learn all about what it means to be a martyr!

What Does Martyr Mean?

According to Dictionary, the word martyr has both a literal and a figurative meaning. Literally, a martyr is a person who refuses to renounce their religion and therefore suffers death. Figuratively, a martyr seeks attention and sympathy by feigning or faking pain or suffering. 

In the modern-day, the word martyr is often used in the latter context. The verb version of the word martyr is martyrise. Martyr is two syllables (mar-tyr), and the pronunciation of martyr is ˈmɑːtə.

How Can We Use Martyr in a Sentence?

People can either use the word martyr in a literal way or a figurative way. Take a look below to see how you can use the word of the day martyr. Reading and making up your own example sentences is a great way to learn new words.

Example #1: Saint Sebastian

Saint Sebastian was the First Christian martyr to die for his religious beliefs.

Question: Is martyr used literally or figuratively in the above sentence?

Answer: The word martyr is used literally.

Example #2: Faking Your Suffering

The family members quickly tired of the complaining and constant suffering from their teenage son, who acted like a martyr. 

Question: Is martyr used literally or figuratively in the above sentence?

Answer: The word martyr is used figuratively.

Example #3

The man believed he was a martyr for his political beliefs, but in reality, no one was coming after him for his beliefs, they were simply disagreeing, and he didn’t like it.

Question: Is martyr used literally or figuratively in the above sentence?

Answer: The word martyr is used figuratively.

Example #4

The people in the town read the news story about the martyr who was killed for their religious beliefs. They could not believe that this was occurring in the 21st century.

Question: Is martyr used literally or figuratively in the above sentence?

Answer: The word martyr is used literally.

What Is the Etymology of Martyr?

The word martyr is very old! This word entered Middle English as the word marter before the year 900, which comes from the Old English martyr. These terms come from the Late Latin martus and martys as well as the Greek martur.

What Are Translations of Martyr?

People can be martyrs all over the world, not just in the American English language! If you are trying to discuss the concept of being a martyr with someone in another country or someone who does not speak English, you can reference this list of translations of the word martyr from Nice Translator.

  • Malay: martir
  • Malayalam: രക്തസാക്ഷിയാകുക
  • Norwegian: martyr
  • Greek: μάρτυρας
  • Catalan: martiritzar
  • Swahili: shahidi
  • Icelandic: Píslarvottur
  • Urdu: شہید
  • Bulgarian: мъченик
  • Vietnamese: tử vì đạo
  • Welsh: merthyron
  • Italian: martire
  • Amharic: ሰማዕት
  • Spanish: mártir
  • Slovenian: mučenec
  • Turkish: şehit
  • Hindi: शहीद
  • Thai: ผู้พลีชีพ
  • Danish: martyr
  • Estonian: märter
  • Dutch: martelaar
  • Bengali: শহীদ
  • Lithuanian: kankinys
  • Kannada: ಹುತಾತ್ಮ
  • Basque: martirioa pairatu
  • Serbian: мученик
  • Finnish: marttyyri
  • Arabic: شهيد
  • Czech: mučedník
  • Swedish: martyr
  • Latvian: moceklis
  • Croatian: mučenik
  • Slovak: mučeníc
  • German: Märtyrer
  • Russian: мученик
  • Romanian: martir
  • French: martyr
  • Portuguese (Brazil): mártir
  • Ukrainian: мучениця
  • Indonesian: martir
  • Telugu: అమరవీరుడు
  • Japanese: 殉教者
  • Hebrew: קָדוֹשׁ מְעוּנֶה
  • Korean: 순교자
  • Polish: męczennik
  • Gujarati: શહીદ
  • Chinese (Taiwan): 烈士
  • Filipino: Martir
  • Marathi: शहीद
  • Tamil: தியாகி
  • Portuguese (Portugal): mártir
  • Chinese (PRC): 烈士
  • Hungarian: mártír

What Are Synonyms of Martyr?

Power Thesaurus lists many words that you can use in place of the word martyr. 

Sometimes, calling someone a martyr can have a negative connotation because it might mean that you are implying that they are faking or exaggerating their suffering. In this case, you can opt to use a synonym of the word synonym instead of the word itself. 

  • abuse
  • afflict
  • agonize
  • angel
  • burn
  • casualty
  • confessor
  • crucify
  • demigoddess
  • distress
  • dupe
  • easy make
  • excruciate
  • fatality
  • give no quarter
  • glorified soul
  • good person
  • great person
  • gull
  • holy being
  • hurt
  • ill-treat
  • injured party
  • kill
  • leading person
  • maltreat
  • martyrise
  • martyrize
  • martyrs
  • mistreat
  • object of compassion
  • offering
  • oppress
  • persecute
  • person of the hour
  • pietist
  • pigeon
  • prey
  • preyed upon
  • punish
  • put to death
  • quarry
  • rack
  • sacrifice
  • saint
  • scapegoat
  • sitting target
  • strike
  • sucker
  • sufferer
  • sufferers
  • throw to the lions
  • torment
  • torture
  • try
  • tyrannize
  • underdog
  • victim
  • victimize
  • wretch

What Are Antonyms of Martyr?

Additionally, below you will find several words with the opposite meaning of martyr. How many of these antonyms of martyr from Power Thesaurus are you familiar with? 

  • abuser
  • adversary
  • aggressor
  • aggressors
  • antagonist
  • archenemy
  • aristarch
  • armed man
  • assailant
  • assailants
  • assailer
  • assaulter
  • attack dog
  • attacker
  • backbiter
  • bad guy
  • baddie
  • belittler
  • bitch
  • burglar
  • carper
  • censurer
  • combatant
  • committer
  • competitor
  • complainant
  • crim
  • criminal
  • critic
  • crook
  • culprit
  • defamer
  • delinquent
  • denigrator
  • detractor
  • disparager
  • doubter
  • enemy
  • evil-doer
  • felon
  • foe
  • fretter
  • goon
  • guilty party
  • hit man
  • hit person
  • hypercritic
  • infractor
  • intruder
  • invader
  • invaders
  • killer
  • maligner
  • marauder
  • molester
  • muckraker
  • mud-slinger
  • mugger
  • nagger
  • nitpicker
  • offender
  • opponent
  • opposition
  • panner
  • perpetrator
  • predator
  • quibbler
  • raider
  • rapist
  • reviler
  • rival
  • robber
  • slanderer
  • striker
  • vilifier
  • zapper


The definition of martyr (ˈmɑr tər) is a person who will die rather than renounce their religion or a person who seeks attention by faking suffering. In the modern day, the word martyr is usually used in a figurative sense rather than a literal sense. Use the word martyr today!


  1. Martyr synonyms – 466 Words and Phrases for Martyr | Power Thesaurus 
  2. Martyr antonyms – 106 Opposites of Martyr | Power Thesaurus 
  3. Martyr Definition & Meaning | 
  4. Martyr | Nice Translator