I am looking for a word like martyr, but without any religious implications.

Also, the idea is that the person doesn't kill themselves, but instead just takes on a great deal of suffering for the good of the cause.

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    The word is martyr, and it need have no religious connotation. It's just that the most famous martyrs are religious ones. Jul 10, 2014 at 21:39
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    I totally agree with John, it's the best word and it's used in non-religious contexts more than enough not to be put off by that connection.
    – Rupe
    Jul 10, 2014 at 21:55
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    This question appears to be off-topic because it is predicated on the false presumption that martyr always has religious implications and/or always implies that the "martyr" actually dies for his cause. Jul 10, 2014 at 22:02
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    ... Wikipedia has: A martyr (Greek: μάρτυς, mártys, "witness"; stem μάρτυρ-, mártyr-) is somebody who suffers persecution and death for advocating, renouncing, refusing to renounce, and/or refusing to advocate a belief or cause, usually a religious one. >> I'd say this justifies the statement " 'martyr' has religious connotations'. This doesn't demand that it must be used solely in the religious domain, of course. Jul 10, 2014 at 22:08
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    I think this question is on-topic but an area of ambiguity may be this: why is the person working for the cause, suffering? Is it from taking on a lion's share of the work (as is the case in many causes - particularly non-profit causes), or is the suffering meant to elicit pity and attention? What's the motive behind the suffering? Jul 10, 2014 at 22:42

3 Answers 3


Someone who works extremely hard for a good cause can be described with these nouns, adjectives and idioms:

  • Tireless

  • self-sacrificing

  • a real trouper

  • dedicated to the cause

  • 'self-sacrificing' and 'trooper' seem right to me, but the other two, though they may be characteristics that a martyr has, are not necessary or sufficient to make that person a martyr
    – Mitch
    Jul 10, 2014 at 22:09
  • Of course, 'trooper' should be 'trouper'. merriam-webster.com/dictionary/trouper
    – Jim Mack
    Jul 10, 2014 at 22:59

Apparently, diehard has this sense:


noun [often as modifier]

A person who strongly opposes change or who continues to support something in spite of opposition.


Though the word doesn't require that the referent self-immolates, I think it conveys (by its morphemes) a sense of great trials and hence almost certainly sufferings.


The word martyr is a Greek word that means "witness." A martyr was a witness to an event or a witness called to testify in a legal matter.

What you seek is a definition to the connotation of martyr. Which has different meanings based upon one's social, religious or personal belief systems.

Because of the inherent nature of language, whatever your meaning may not be what others understand you to mean.

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