folk·​tale | \ ˈfōk-ˌtāl How to pronounce folktale (audio) \

Definition of folktale

: a characteristically anonymous, timeless, and placeless tale circulated orally among a people

Examples of folktale in a Sentence

West African folktales that continue to be passed from generation to generation through storytelling.
Recent Examples on the Web The order of the animals in the Chinese zodiac comes from an ancient folktale with many variations and myths. Frances Lee, Woman's Day, "The Chinese Zodiac Signs Have a Beautiful Backstory," 11 Feb. 2021 The folktale celebrates one man’s victory against seemingly insurmountable odds. Akilah Johnson, ProPublica, "How COVID-19 Hollowed Out a Generation of Young Black Men," 22 Dec. 2020 This is the austere premise of the game, based on a folktale involving the 12th-century German king Barbarossa. Lewis Gordon, Wired, "The Longing Is a Video Game of Transcendent Slowness," 15 Dec. 2020 Now the company named after the folktale—the decacorn stock trading app Robinhood—is at the center of an identity crisis as critics accuse the company of giving up their populist roots in favor of hyper-growth. Lucinda Shen, Fortune, "The problem with VC-backed founders who say they don’t care about getting rich," 3 Dec. 2020 Then there’s the 18th-century Irish folktale of Stingy Jack, an unsavory fellow often said to be a blacksmith who had a fondness for mischief and booze. National Geographic, "The twisted transatlantic tale of American jack-o’-lanterns," 27 Oct. 2020 As the narrator, Hua Zhou puts these family relationships front and center, securing the movie’s status as a timeless retelling of the female warrior folktale. Lindsey Mcginnis, The Christian Science Monitor, "Even without Mushu, Disney ups remake game with ‘Mulan’," 4 Sep. 2020 Perhaps these wounds might even compel a young woman to retreat into folktales, to rewrite odes of the distant past. Hua Hsu, The New Yorker, "The Asian-American Canon Breakers," 30 Dec. 2019 Davis chose the coordinates for a 3D picture of a needle and egg—objects in a Russian folktale about a wizard who hid his soul in the tip of a needle concealed inside an egg. Steve Nadis, Science | AAAS, "Hardy microbe’s DNA could be a time capsule for the ages," 18 Feb. 2020

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

See More

First Known Use of folktale

1850, in the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about folktale

Time Traveler for folktale

Time Traveler

The first known use of folktale was in 1850

See more words from the same year

Statistics for folktale

Last Updated

22 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Folktale.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Feb. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLA Chicago APA Merriam-Webster

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for folktale



English Language Learners Definition of folktale

: a traditional story


folk·​tale | \ ˈfōk-ˌtāl How to pronounce folktale (audio) \

Kids Definition of folktale

: a story made up and handed down by the common people

More from Merriam-Webster on folktale

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for folktale

Comments on folktale

What made you want to look up folktale? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


Test Your Vocabulary

February 2021 Words of the Day Quiz

  • squirrel in winter
  • Which is a synonym of perdure?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

 AlphaBear 2

Spell words. Make bears.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!