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

Noun 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 connective tissue between scenes is missing and the reader must reconstruct the narrative. Edmund White, Harper's magazine, "Existential Noir," 6 Jan. 2020 Meanwhile, proponents of recreational marijuana push the false narrative of a tax windfall for governments and improved safety for users while ignoring the harms: mental-health... WSJ, "Is Marijuana Fueling a Public-Health Crisis?," 6 Jan. 2020 But the switchback narrative doesn’t serve her, or the production, well: scenes that should have a real emotional punch (Amy’s burning of Jo’s novel, Beth’s death) dissipate in the fragmented structure. The Economist, "Rough and wild Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of “Little Women” lacks heart," 30 Dec. 2019 The animal-behavior professor and author Temple Grandin’s 1995 memoir, Thinking in Pictures, has been credited as the first narrative of autism by a person on the spectrum. Kristina Rizga, The Atlantic, "How One School Program in New York Helps Students With Autism," 30 Dec. 2019 Players experience the narrative of Telling Lies via one-sided pieces of two-way video conversations, accessed via semi-random searches through a hard drive database. Ars Staff, Ars Technica, "Ars Technica’s best games of 2019," 24 Dec. 2019 Things still aren’t perfect at Manual, but winning can do a lot to change a narrative. Marco Cummings, The Denver Post, "Manual basketball helping “change the narrative” of once-troubled school," 20 Dec. 2019 The narrative is interspersed with recipes, because if food is love, why shouldn’t hate get a meal, too. Alexandra Ossola, Quartz, "Before We Knew Better: Nora Ephron’s Heartburn offers a complicated look at women, and at feminism," 16 Dec. 2019 New rookie starter Germaine Pratt is attempting to change the narrative. Tyler Dragon,, "Cincinnati Bengals LB Germaine Pratt trying to take advantage of opportunity," 19 Nov. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Given these explicit missions, Shem’s tone-deaf approach to the narrative effects of privilege-flaunting is unfortunate. Rachel Pearson, The New Yorker, "“The House of God,” a Book as Sexist as It Was Influential, Gets a Sequel," 25 Dec. 2019 With Mazin’s accompanying podcast, the show’s growing fanbase has a chance to learn about the narrative choices behind the series and its connection to our current era. Greta Bjornson,, "Nothing Left to Binge? Let These 15 Podcasts About TV Shows Fill the Void," 23 Dec. 2019 Regrettably, this obsessive massiveness too often renders the narrative tedious. Howard Schneider, National Review, "Thomas Edison’s Strange Genius," 7 Nov. 2019 Like its source material, Daybreak deliberately breaks the fourth wall to address viewers (and sometimes, the writers) directly—a narrative device also used to great effect in Phoebe Waller-Bridge's hit series, Fleabag. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "Mad Max meets Ferris Bueller in boldly outrageous Netflix series Daybreak," 3 Nov. 2019 The narrative voice is complex and profound, jumping from head to head, consciousness to consciousness, inhabiting main characters and peripheral figures alike. Barbara Vandenburgh, USA TODAY, "Family dysfunction is at its finest in Jami Attenberg’s devastating ‘All This Could Be Yours’," 21 Oct. 2019 In Juliet the Maniac, Escoria interrupts the main first-person narrative with archival documents and flash-forwards that allow her to recount Juliet’s struggles with bipolar disorder from a slight remove. Rosa Inocencio Smith, The Atlantic, "Two Novels That Make Mental Illness Legible," 22 June 2019 What’s at issue here, however, is something different, and that’s the homogenization of a narrative art form., "In an interview with Empire magazine," 25 Oct. 2019 Do squishy notions of empathy and conflict in narrative fiction make comp-sci students more sensitive programmers? Gregory Barber, WIRED, "What Sci-Fi Can Teach Computer Science About Ethics," 26 Aug. 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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Time Traveler for narrative

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for narrative

Last Updated

10 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Narrative.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 21 January 2020.

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More Definitions for narrative


How to pronounce narrative (audio)

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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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).


good-natured easy friendliness

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