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

In truth, his narrative is centered on the Indian subcontinent, despite its insightful forays into China’s hydraulic history. Tunku Varadarajan, WSJ, "‘Unruly Waters’ and ‘Ganges’ Review: In India, Water Is Politics," 4 Jan. 2019 The entire country took note as high school students seized control of their own narrative and made gun control and firearm reforms an issue everybody — especially politicians — were talking about. Lucy Diavolo, Teen Vogue, "5 Protest Tactics We Loved in 2018," 29 Dec. 2018 That meant adding a voice-over, which added to the overall storybook vibe Luna already communicates visually and with its narrative. Nick Statt, The Verge, "VR storybook game Luna is even more mesmerizing on Magic Leap’s headset," 18 Dec. 2018 But the two reports show the trolls used multiple websites to disseminate their narratives. Alex Ward, Vox, "4 main takeaways from new reports on Russia’s 2016 election interference," 17 Dec. 2018 The game has garnered critical praise from the gaming press alongside those astronomical sales figures, though our review, while favorable on the whole, noted that its narrative and open-world design can sometimes feel at odds with each other. Jeff Dunn, Ars Technica, "Dealmaster: A PS4 and Red Dead Redemption 2 for $199 may be the best deal of Cyber Monday [Updated]," 26 Nov. 2018 Nonetheless, Hunter Killer works through its narrative to frame the story in a way that leans away from America’s naval strengths and into Russia’s longstanding defensive posture. Alex Hollings, Popular Mechanics, "What 'Hunter Killer' Gets Right About Submarine Warfare," 7 Nov. 2018 In fact, some of the greatest horror movies ever made—Night of the Living Dead, Ju-On: The Grudge, [Rec], Friday the 13th, Get Out, and Halloween (1978)—were directed by men, yet have women at the center of their narratives. Candice Frederick, Harper's BAZAAR, "There's No Lack of Female Directors. There’s Only a Lack of Opportunities.," 26 Oct. 2018 At the heart of this pressure to fit in as an athlete, for kids and adults alike, is the mainstream narrative around wellness. Robyn Warren, SELF, "This Is Why I Create Wellness Communities for Geeks," 17 Dec. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Marquee battles are at the narrative heart of both movies. Joe Pappalardo, Popular Mechanics, "'Outlaw King' vs. 'Braveheart': Which Movie Gets Scotland Right?," 13 Nov. 2018 Ingress Prime is being billed as a sleeker, more modern version of the game, but with pretty much all of the same core gameplay and narrative elements intact. Nick Statt, The Verge, "Niantic’s massive Ingress reboot launches today on iOS and Android," 5 Nov. 2018 To be sure, games often struggle with balancing aesthetic and narrative choices against a marketing-ready checklist of technical features. Daniel Starkey, Ars Technica, "Assassin’s Creed Odyssey," 4 Oct. 2018 The ironic, all-too-human attitude to which Auden drew attention and the insistently narrative one highlighted by Tarkovsky help explain the enduring fascination with Bruegel. A.j. Goldmann, WSJ, "‘Bruegel’ Review: Enduring Fascination," 6 Oct. 2018 In all his films, Cuarón exhibits a careful attention not just to the narrative aspects of his storytelling but to how that storytelling is shaped by what the camera sees. Alissa Wilkinson, Vox, "Roma, from celebrated director Alfonso Cuarón, is one of the year’s best movies," 20 Nov. 2018 Still, the game's attempts at realism can at times obfuscate some narrative choices and arbitrarily deny others. Daniel Starkey, Ars Technica, "Red Dead Redemption II review: Getting muddy in the wide-open frontier," 25 Oct. 2018 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

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

10 Jan 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


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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