Word Origin & History
O.E., from L.L., from Gk. martyr, earlier martys (gen. martyros) in Christian use "martyr," lit. "witness," probably related to mermera "care, trouble," from mermairein "be anxious or thoughtful," from PIE *(s)mrtu- (cf. Skt. smarati "remember," L. memor "mindful;" see
). Adopted directly into most Germanic languages, but O.N. substituted native formation pislarvattr, lit. "torture-witness." Related: Martyred. Martyr complex "exaggerated desire for self-sacrifice" is attested from 1931.