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

In some ways, the unusual way Olszewski made the team feeds that narrative. More concretely, though, the Patriots signaled Olszewski is near the bottom of the roster by initially having him off of it on cut day. Nora Princiotti,, "Patience, perseverance paid off for Gunner Olszewski on cut-down day," 1 Sep. 2019 This narrative is well documented with weapons, uniforms and photographs at the Vassieux Resistance Museum. Sylvie Bigar, Washington Post, "Her uncle died with the French Resistance, and she had to visit the spot," 30 Aug. 2019 And how that narrative stayed with the singer/songwriter for a long time, unfortunately. Billboard Staff, Billboard, "Looking Back at the VMAs 10 Years Later: A Billboard Staff Kanye/Taylor Roundtable," 22 Aug. 2019 That narrative didn't entirely come to pass, of course. Justin Chang,, "Appreciation: The Peter Fonda role we should be talking about isn’t ‘Easy Rider,’ but ‘Ulee’s Gold’," 18 Aug. 2019 But progressive observers outside Congress push back on that narrative a bit. Emily Tamkin, The New Republic, "Ilhan Omar Is Already Changing Washington," 16 Aug. 2019 Video games, according to that narrative, are breeding grounds of the boorishness and exclusivity that can make maleness so harmful. Spencer A. Klavan, The Atlantic, "Games Boys Play," 16 Aug. 2019 Of course, that messy narrative didn’t fit into this day and age’s media machine. Dieter Kurtenbach, The Mercury News, "Kurtenbach: Kevin Durant finally set the record straight — but it’s a shame that was necessary," 7 Aug. 2019 This historical narrative has even been deployed to explain the tragic suicides of two ex-Islanders. David Geiringer, Quartzy, "“Shallow, inauthentic” Love Island contains a surprising amount of truth about love," 25 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Jessalynn leaned into the stage-mom archetype, dressing her daughter in foofy handmade bows, partly to drum up some narrative tension. Jamie Lauren Keiles, Time, "'What Do People Want Me to Do? Wear Black Every Day?': How Child Star JoJo Siwa Built Her Sparkly Empire," 22 Aug. 2019 The narrative structure of our lives was splintering. Laurie Penny, WIRED, "We Can Be Heroes: How the Nerds Are Reinventing Pop Culture," 19 Aug. 2019 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

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

5 Sep 2019

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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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readily or continually undergoing change

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