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

Keep scrolling for more

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 there's Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird, which took the male coming-of-age tale and, rather than simply gender flip it, owned that narrative in a new way. Anne Cohen,, "Why Are Blockbuster Movies About Women Such Clichés?," 8 June 2019 The easily offended may well be taken aback by this naughty narrative of the new world. Karen D'souza, The Mercury News, "Review: Outrageous ‘Kiss My Aztec!’ premieres at Berkeley Rep," 8 June 2019 Luxury fashion houses use such narratives to paint a three-dimensional world—and a lifestyle—that’s alluring to consumers, while giving the institution an identity not tied to any one creative director. Tanisha C. Ford, The Atlantic, "The Radical Fashion Roots of Rihanna’s Fenty Line," 7 June 2019 The Marvel Cinematic Universe has stitched together more than 20 films into an airtight crochet of interlocking narratives. Peter Rubin, WIRED, "Goodbye X-Men—You Flawed, Frustrating Cinematic Revolution," 7 June 2019 The Last Black Man in San Francisco’ teems and even overflows with life and love, some might argue at the cost of narrative focus or momentum. Mark Olsen,, "Indie Focus: backstage comedy in 'Late Night'," 7 June 2019 In other areas, Siege parrots dumb political narratives. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, "Is There a Right Way to Cover the Trump White House?," 6 June 2019 The hybrid narrative film traces DeLorean's rise through the ranks at General Motors in the 1960s as an engineer, before splitting off to form his own DeLorean Motor Co. in 1973. Patrick Ryan, USA TODAY, "Alec Baldwin is 'so done' playing Trump on 'SNL': 'They should find somebody who wants to'," 6 June 2019 More important than these specifics, though, is the elegant way Goldberger’s narrative echoes the changing tides of the American city. Michael Lindgren, Washington Post, "America’s baseball stadiums: The hits and the misses," 6 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Incidentally, that’s two years after the events in X-Men: Apocalypse (Apocalypse is actually a more appropriate name for the car than Citation), the narrative predecessor to Dark Phoenix, and the first to feature Sophie Turner as Jean Gray. Gary Thompson,, "‘Dark Phoenix’ is a poor vehicle for lame-duck X-Men cast | Movie review," 5 June 2019 Much of the focus is found in the narrative framework. Charlie Theel, Ars Technica, "Arkham Horror Third Edition: The classic Lovecraft adventure returns," 24 Nov. 2018 The overall narrative arc will be familiar to fans of the original Twitter exchange, but there are enough surprising twists and turns to keep the audience entertained right to the end. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "Twitter-inspired You Might Be the Killer is coming to Syfy this weekend," 4 Oct. 2018 Serial demonstrated that this type of ongoing, narrative storytelling had legs, and in the years since, there have been thousands of followers using the same format and style, in ways that work and don’t. Andrew Liptak, The Verge, "A deep dive into Cleveland’s criminal justice system," 23 Sep. 2018 For those narrative themes to get lost is tragic and really problematic in and of itself. Vogue, "Astra Taylor and Natasha Lennard Are Shaking Up “Resistance Lit” (Thank God)," 10 May 2019 According to Fadel, the monster is merely a narrative device designed to jolt his characters out of their isolated, unexamined lives. Stephen Dalton, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Murder Me, Monster' ('Muere, monstro, muere'): Film Review | Cannes 2018," 13 May 2018 His over-the-top recitation will be the narrative device for the first big post-Trump documentary. Eli Rosenberg, Washington Post, "‘The Snake’: How Trump appropriated a radical black singer’s lyrics for immigration fearmongering," 24 Feb. 2018 Completed in the early 1700s, the piece is a celebrated example of program music, or instrumentals involving a narrative element. Lawrence Elizabeth Knox, Houston Chronicle, "Mercury presents a modern fairy tale of four seasons," 13 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.

See More

First Known Use of narrative


1567, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about narrative

Statistics for narrative

Last Updated

13 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for narrative

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


standardized text or formulaic language

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Finance Words Quiz

  • a-piggy-bank
  • The etymology of mortgage is related most closely to which two words?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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