pas·​to·​ral | \ ˈpa-st(ə-)rəl How to pronounce pastoral (audio) , nonstandard pa-ˈstȯr-əl \

Definition of pastoral

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a(1) : of, relating to, or composed of shepherds or herdsmen a pastoral people, seminomadic in their habits— J. M. Mogey
(2) : devoted to or based on livestock raising a pastoral economy
b : of or relating to the countryside : not urban a pastoral setting
c : portraying or expressive of the life of shepherds or country people especially in an idealized and conventionalized manner pastoral poetry a pastoral symphony
d : pleasingly peaceful and innocent : idyllic pastoral dreams were shattered by the year's round of … unwelcome visitors, ruinous floods and procrastinating workmen— Betty Fussell
2a : of or relating to spiritual care or guidance especially of a congregation pastoral counseling
b : of or relating to the pastor of a church pastoral duties


\ ˈpa-st(ə-)rəl How to pronounce pastoral (audio) ; sense 1d is often ˌpa-stə-ˈräl How to pronounce pastoral (audio) , -ˈral How to pronounce pastoral (audio) \

Definition of pastoral (Entry 2 of 2)

1a : a literary work (such as a poem or play) dealing with shepherds or rural life in a usually artificial manner and typically drawing a contrast between the innocence and serenity of the simple life and the misery and corruption of city and especially court life
b : pastoral poetry or drama
c : a rural picture or scene
3 : a letter of a pastor to his charge: such as
a : a letter addressed by a bishop to his diocese
b : a letter of the house of bishops of the Protestant Episcopal Church to be read in each parish

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Other Words from pastoral


pastorally \ ˈpa-​st(ə-​)rə-​lē How to pronounce pastoral (audio) \ adverb
pastoralness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for pastoral

Synonyms: Adjective

Antonyms: Adjective

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Examples of pastoral in a Sentence

Adjective The house is situated in a charming pastoral setting. Her favorite painting in the collection is a pastoral landscape. The bishop outlined the church's views in a pastoral letter.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The meeting also discussed the role of women in far-flung corners of the world, like the Amazon, where a shortage of priests has meant that women already carry out many pastoral responsibilities. New York Times, "Pope Formalizes Women’s Roles, but Priesthood Stays Out of Reach," 11 Jan. 2021 Chaplain Malcolm Marler, senior director of pastoral care at UAB Hospital, said that only within the past month have chaplains begun going into the rooms of COVID-19 patients. al, "UAB chaplains get closer to COVID-19 patients: ‘Kindness is an amazing medicine’," 30 Dec. 2020 Each student normally is required to do some fieldwork in a synagogue or hospital, as well as have some experience in a pastoral setting such as a nursing home. Stewart Ain,, "Starting a new job as a rabbi during the pandemic is not easy," 29 Dec. 2020 The 1,000-acre site became a canvas for du Pont to paint pastoral scenes with plants, and its wooded March Bank is famous for its extravagant displays of specialty spring bulbs in late winter and early spring. Washington Post, "Biden put Wilmington on the map — but for garden lovers, it was already a destination," 28 Dec. 2020 Such attitudes make medical staff feel like their work and sacrifices are being devalued, said Timothy Cranfill, the hospital’s director of pastoral care, who lost a family member to COVID. Lauren Caruba,, "Burnout. Trauma. Disillusionment: The toll of COVID-19 on San Antonio hospital workers," 17 Dec. 2020 In 1984, Fraser got creative, taking the problem out of the flat, pastoral realm and into more expansive terrain. Quanta Magazine, "After Centuries, a Seemingly Simple Math Problem Gets an Exact Solution," 9 Dec. 2020 For academics, Monceau has long been a significant part of Old World garden history as an example, albeit an extreme and even unreliable one, of efforts in France to experiment with English pastoral or picturesque landscapes. Washington Post, "An 18th-century Parisian garden of delight can teach us much about what not to do today," 9 Dec. 2020 The shuttering of churches in the spring caused untold pastoral damage. Matthew Hennessey, WSJ, "No More Bishop Nice Guy," 8 Dec. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun This is not Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 adaptation Romeo + Juliet—with its psychedelic dystopia and doomed romanticism—but an agrarian pastoral of blues and oranges and blacks. Tiana Reid, The New York Review of Books, "Searching for Freedom in ‘Cane River’ and the Black Outdoors," 20 June 2020 Now a new documentary will look at the history of this genre, in which the pastoral is routinely entwined with the painful. Clark Collis,, "Before Midsommar: New documentary to tell the history of folk-horror genre," 10 July 2019 However, Hamilton's Thomas Kail lost out in the best directing race to Sam Mendes for Jez Butterworth's modern Irish pastoral, The Ferryman, which is scheduled to transfer to Broadway in the fall. Alex Ritman, The Hollywood Reporter, "The Olivier Awards 2018: Full List of Winners," 8 Apr. 2018 The result is something that is looser and more open-ended, less hard science fiction than a dreamy kind of science pastoral, albeit one populated with mutant crocodiles. George Pendle, Esquire, "Alex Garland Mutated Annihilation Into a Psychedelic Sci-Fi Horror," 21 Feb. 2018 Ashbery chose fractured pastoral; Rich extracted metaphors from geology, archaeology, astronomy and biology. Wayne Koestenbaum, New York Times, "Book Review Newsletter," 15 July 2016

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'pastoral.' 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 pastoral


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a(1)


1584, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for pastoral

Adjective and Noun

Middle English, from Latin pastoralis, from pastor herdsman

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Time Traveler for pastoral

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for pastoral

Last Updated

19 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Pastoral.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for pastoral


How to pronounce pastoral (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of pastoral

: of or relating to the countryside or to the lives of people who live in the country
: of or relating to the spiritual care or guidance of people who are members of a religious group
: of or relating to the pastor of a church


pas·​to·​ral | \ ˈpa-stə-rəl How to pronounce pastoral (audio) \

Kids Definition of pastoral

1 : of or relating to peaceful scenes of the countryside
2 : of or relating to the pastor of a church

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