nar·​ra·​tive | \ ˈner-ə-tiv How to pronounce narrative (audio) , ˈna-rə-\

Definition of narrative

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : something that is narrated : story, account He is writing a detailed narrative of his life on the island.
b : a way of presenting or understanding a situation or series of events that reflects and promotes a particular point of view or set of values The rise of the Tea Party and the weakness of the Obama economy have fueled a Republican narrative about Big Government as a threat to liberty …— Michael Grunwald The media narrative around Kelly's appointment had two central ideas … : He would calm and professionalize the White House, and he would provide a more measured leadership style than his boss.— Perry Bacon Jr.
2 : the art or practice of narration … depended not on narrative but on intensity derived from the verity to make the book jump.— Stanley Kauffmann
3 : the representation in art of an event or story also : an example of such a representation the narrative of St. Joan of Arc



Definition of narrative (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : having the form of a story or representing a story a narrative poem narrative paintings
2 : of or relating to the process of telling a story the author's narrative style the novel's narrative structure

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Other Words from narrative


narratively adverb

Examples of narrative in a Sentence


He is writing a detailed narrative of his life on the island. People have questioned the accuracy of his narrative.

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The whole deal interested me because part of the narrative surrounding Murray is how engrained this Cardinals’ offense is in him. Conor Orr,, "Vic Fangio Is Bringing His Hometown Vibes to Denver," 19 Aug. 2019 The threat of the U.A.W. coming in and organizing the Fuyao plant drives much of the narrative of the film. Sheelah Kolhatkar, The New Yorker, "“American Factory,” a New Netflix Film from the Obamas, Explores the Challenges of a Globalized Economy," 19 Aug. 2019 The answer, as usual, can be found in the beginning of the narrative. Kevin Baker, Harper's magazine, "The Deep State of Dementia," 19 Aug. 2019 Regardless of the validity of the Rhoda Wise narrative — scoffers note that she was known to have mental health problems — people still arrive by the busload. Washington Post, "‘Miracle house’ in Ohio draws pilgrims amid sainthood push," 18 Aug. 2019 Even without Spider-Man and the characters belonging to Marvel Studios, Sony still has quite a collection of characters and the means to shift the focus of that narrative to Venom. Richard Newby, The Hollywood Reporter, "Will Andy Serkis Take 'Venom 2' in a Darker Direction?," 8 Aug. 2019 The rapper took ownership of the narrative at Lolla Sunday, transforming his set into a celebration of his freedom and a thank you to his supporters, who packed the field before him. Piet Levy, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Lollapalooza 2019: Ariana Grande premieres 'Boyfriend' live, recovers from close wipeout, on final night," 5 Aug. 2019 But one part of that narrative isn't true anymore: Apple no longer has the biggest financial reserves of any company on Earth. Samuel Axon, Ars Technica, "Apple isn’t the most cash-rich company in the world anymore, but it doesn’t matter," 5 Aug. 2019 There was a 5,500-page trial transcript that sort of became the spine of the narrative. Angela Serratore, Smithsonian, "The Bootleg King and the Ambitious Prosecutor Who Took Him Down," 1 Aug. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

The story of The Sixth Sense’s word-of-mouth triumph is the kind of industry narrative studios still salivate over but used to build their entire financial operations around. David Sims, The Atlantic, "How The Sixth Sense Conquered Hollywood in 1999," 6 Aug. 2019 The performance piece uses traditional Mexican pyrotechnic sculpture building and features narrative vignettes about environmental justice, immigration, deportation, incarceration and gentrification. Darcel Rockett,, "New exhibit at SAIC challenges artists and Chicagoans to reimagine criminal justice," 5 Aug. 2019 Director David Leitch is not re-writing the rules of narrative cinema. Jonathan M. Gitlin, Ars Technica, "Hobbs & Shaw: A McLaren, a McGuffin, banter, and plenty of action," 2 Aug. 2019 There’s nothing wrong with filmmaking that obeys the classical Hollywood rules of aesthetic legibility, linear narrative sense and a relatable emotional journey. Ann Hornaday, Washington Post, "In praise of the messy, misunderstood masterpiece (and in search of the next one)," 25 July 2019 His swan song coming in the Olympics, considering San Antonio’s embrace of international players and Popovich’s standing as a steward of the sport of basketball, makes narrative sense., "One Year Out: What to Watch Ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics," 24 July 2019 The threads of the conversation and the narrative arc of Mueller’s report was often difficult to follow, and much of the day did not represent the best of the legislative branch. Garrett M. Graff, WIRED, "Robert Mueller's Work Is Done. Now It's Congress's Turn," 24 July 2019 What actually makes the Disney+ series notable, given the small-potatoes nature of these narrative setups, is the way in which they're directly related to the big-screen Marvel entries. Isaac Feldberg, Fortune, "How Marvel Is Betting Big on Disney+ in Phase Four," 22 July 2019 The new Lion King will make a lot of money — and hopefully, some of that money can be used to make films that have more artistic integrity, more narrative ambition, and more bare reason to exist. Kendra James, The Verge, "Disney’s live-action Lion King is pretty, but so unnecessary," 11 July 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'narrative.' 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 narrative


1567, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Statistics for narrative

Last Updated

22 Aug 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for narrative

The first known use of narrative was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for narrative



English Language Learners Definition of narrative

 (Entry 1 of 2)

formal : a story that is told or written



English Language Learners Definition of narrative (Entry 2 of 2)

: of or relating to the process of telling a story
: having the form of a story


nar·​ra·​tive | \ ˈner-ə-tiv How to pronounce narrative (audio) \

Kids Definition of narrative

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: something (as a story) that is told in full detail



Kids Definition of narrative (Entry 2 of 2)

: having the form of a story a narrative poem

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a usually brief trip or an expedition

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