bil·​dungs·​ro·​man | \ ˈbil-du̇ŋ(k)s-rō-ˌmän How to pronounce bildungsroman (audio) , -du̇ŋz-\

Definition of bildungsroman

literature : a novel about the moral and psychological growth of the main character a bildungsroman by Charles Dickens

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Bildungsroman is the combination of two German words: Bildung, meaning "education," and Roman, meaning "novel." Fittingly, a "bildungsroman" is a novel that deals with the formative years of the main character - in particular, his or her psychological development and moral education. The bildungsroman usually ends on a positive note with the hero's foolish mistakes and painful disappointments over and a life of usefulness ahead. Goethe's late 18th-century work Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre (Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship) is often cited as the classic example of this type of novel. Though the term is primarily applied to novels, in recent years, some English speakers have begun to apply the term to films that deal with a youthful character's coming-of-age.

Examples of bildungsroman in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

With Brady as the club's new trequartista (number ten for the uninitiated dweebs), the Juventus manager underwent somewhat of a tactical bildungsroman (coming of age for the uninitiated dweebs)., "Giovanni Trapattoni: A Career of 2 Halves That Defined the Golden Era of Calcio at Juventus," 12 Aug. 2019 Science fiction, fantasy is a youth-loving tradition, the bildungsroman, the origin story of the young farm boy or farm girl who’s finding their way. Chaim Gartenberg, The Verge, "Author Myke Cole talks writing hard science fiction in his space-set Coast Guard novel Sixteenth Watch," 15 July 2019 This lesbian bildungsroman alternates with the larger tale of James Bond derring-do set in 1966 in Buenos Aires, where a grown-up Vera is spying for the CIA. Maureen Corrigan,, "Forget about 007. This heroine has her own brand of spycraft.," 21 June 2018 Starring Angela Lansbury, the story serves as a collective bildungsroman of the four March sisters, who seek to navigate life—at home, at work, and in love— during the American Civil War. Noor Brara, Vogue, "Here’s What to Watch This Summer on TV," 21 May 2018 In mounting Amy Ludwig’s adaptation of Sandra Cisneros’ bildungsroman about a young Latina in Chicago, Teatro Visión uses an all-youth ensemble for the first time. Chronicle Staff Report, San Francisco Chronicle, "Bay Area arts and entertainment picks for May 18-20," 17 May 2018 In mounting Amy Ludwig’s adaptation of Sandra Cisnero’s bildungsroman about a young Latina in Chicago, Teatro Visión uses an all-youth ensemble for the first time. Lily Janiak, San Francisco Chronicle, "Lily Janiak’s theater picks, May 13," 10 May 2018 This artist’s bildungsroman has enough on its hands wrestling with complex questions about art-making, integrity and the ethics of ambition. Kate Greathead, New York Times, "Three Sparkling Debuts, Joined by New York City," 4 May 2018 Akwaeke Emezi’s Freshwater is a new kind of bildungsroman. Josephine Livingstone, The New Republic, "Freshwater: A Coming-of-Age Story Containing Multitudes," 1 Mar. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'bildungsroman.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of bildungsroman

1906, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for bildungsroman

German, from Bildung education + Roman novel

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bile acid


Statistics for bildungsroman

Last Updated

17 Sep 2019

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Time Traveler for bildungsroman

The first known use of bildungsroman was in 1906

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Nglish: Translation of bildungsroman for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about bildungsroman

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authorized for issue (as a bond)

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