nar·​ra·​tive | \ˈner-ə-tiv, 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

And in the age of the internet, media can either perpetuate these perceptions or encourage an alternate narrative. SELF, "8 Influencers Making the Wellness World More Inclusive," 7 Nov. 2018 Japanese American, Latino American, American Indian, and LGBTQ narratives—that were equally important. Shaniqwa Jarvis, Glamour, "The 97-Year-Old Park Ranger Who Doesn’t Have Time for Foolishness," 2 Nov. 2018 But a new discovery presents an interesting wrinkle in the Galileo narrative. Sam Blum, Popular Mechanics, "Newfound Galileo Letter Suggests He Lied to Dupe the Church and Avoid Persecution," 25 Sep. 2018 Now they can’t be defined by this driving narrative. Sarah Khan, Condé Nast Traveler, "Driving On Her Own in Saudi Arabia," 17 Aug. 2018 Sealing the deal in the revival narrative is news that Ford, last month, purchased the long-vacant Michigan Central Station. Allie Gross, Detroit Free Press, "1993 Corktown purchase sits on the edge of a jackpot," 13 July 2018 Why, then, does the pulse of the narrative falter in the second half? Anthony Lane, The New Yorker, "Gus Van Sant’s Semi-Surreal “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot”," 13 July 2018 By now, that’s a familiar scenario, the central narrative in the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Maryn Mckenna, WIRED, "The Strange and Curious Case of the Deadly Superbug Yeast," 13 July 2018 While not particularly long, the narrative provides an easy way to try to master all of the game’s random trick shots, which will come in handy for those brave enough to venture online and play in competitions with strangers. Todd Martens,, "'Mario Tennis Aces' and the love of low-stakes competition," 12 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Still, some edits have to be made to create compelling TV — and fit the narrative arc of each episode. Candace Braun Davison, House Beautiful, "The Crazy Secret Behind Those "Out Of Budget" Homes On Property Brothers," 16 July 2018 While the Diamonds’ collection is heavy on narrative works, Harris said every piece of African-American art doesn’t have to tell a story. Page Leggett, charlotteobserver, "This is the conversation that kicked a Charlotte couple’s 40-year journey into high gear," 21 June 2018 Their arcs are never cleanly defined in a movie stronger on textural beats than narrative hooks. Justin Chang,, "Russian drama takes the stage at Cannes in the sweet 'Leto' and the scathing 'Donbass'," 11 May 2018 No matter the teams involved or the time of season or the final content of the box score, the narrative arc of an extra-innings game often follows the same loose template. Emma Baccellieri,, "The Rays and Marlins Played An Incredibly Strange Game on Tuesday Night," 4 July 2018 And aside from the narrative aspects of this, if LeBron goes to the Rockets, his title window lasts only as long as Chris Paul's time as an elite point guard. Andrew Sharp,, "LeBron James And All His Free Agency Options," 15 June 2018 On the Yellow website, Snap lays out three areas of interest that are in line with what a lot of tech companies are putting money towards these days — augmented reality, interactive experiences on mobile, and narrative storytelling. Madeline Buxton,, "Got An Idea? You Could Get $150,000 From Snap," 23 May 2018 There's a big trans narrative missing form the Me Too movement. Brittney Mcnamara, Teen Vogue, "Munroe Bergdorf Opened Up About PTSD, Sexual Assault, and Why Transgender Women Need to Be Part of #MeToo," 21 Mar. 2018 In the hereafter, Michael sets up narrative threads, matches soul mates together, and tries to make sure everyone is happy eternally. Noah Berlatsky, Washington Post, "TV is showing us the dark side of playing God," 5 Jan. 2018

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

14 Nov 2018

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


nar·​ra·​tive | \ˈner-ə-tiv \

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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Comments on narrative

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


something that serves to warn or remind

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