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Old English martyr, from Late Latin martyr, from Doric Greek martyr, earlier martys (genitive martyros) in Christian use "martyr," literally "witness," probably related to mermera "care, trouble," from mermairein "be anxious or thoughtful," from PIE *(s)mrtu- (cf. Sanskrit smarati "remember," Latin memor "mindful;" see memory).
Adopted directly into most Germanic languages, but Norse substituted native formation pislarvattr, literally "torture-witness." General sense of "constant sufferer" is from 1550s. Martyr complex "exaggerated desire for self-sacrifice" is attested from 1920.
Old English martyrian, from martyr (see martyr (n.)). Middle English also had a verb martyrize.
one who bears witness of the truth, and suffers death in the cause of Christ (Acts 22:20; Rev. 2:13; 17:6). In this sense Stephen was the first martyr. The Greek word so rendered in all other cases is translated "witness." (1.) In a court of justice (Matt. 18:16; 26:65; Acts 6:13; 7:58; Heb. 10:28; 1 Tim. 5:19). (2.) As of one bearing testimony to the truth of what he has seen or known (Luke 24:48; Acts 1:8, 22; Rom. 1:9; 1 Thess. 2:5, 10; 1 John 1:2).