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, -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 pastorally (audio) \ adverb
pastoralness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for pastoral

Synonyms: Adjective

bucolic, country, rural, rustic (also rustical)

Antonyms: Adjective


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Examples of pastoral in a Sentence


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 night kicks off with the experimental, pastoral stylings of Virginia guitarist Daniel Bachman and is followed by a trip to the cosmos courtesy of Washington rap duo Model Home. Washington Post, "17 things to do in the D.C. area this weekend," 11 July 2019 That’s one reason the Sinisis are looking to make extra income by renting out space at pastoral Old Crow to vacationers who’d like a taste of New England farm life. Liz Tracy, Vox, "How are small farms surviving? Airbnb.," 11 July 2019 But the pastoral landscape belies a devastated community. Dan Levin, New York Times, "Inside the Elementary School Where Drug Addiction Sets the Curriculum," 12 June 2019 After a long ban on cotton in France (the fabric was wiping out the silk and wool business in the country), Christophe-Phillipe Oberkampf created the pastoral designs in collaboration with the designer Jean Baptiste Huet. Tatum Dooley, Teen Vogue, "The History Behind The Star Print of Dior's Latest Swimsuit Collection, Toile de Jouy," 12 June 2019 In 2001, Maldacena moved to the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, a pastoral campus free of students and teaching duties where worldly distractions are minimized by design. Quanta Magazine, "Juan Maldacena, Pondering Quantum Gravity by the Pond," 16 June 2019 This pastoral, gently lyrical piece was designed not to dazzle listeners but to seduce them. Howard Reich,, "CSO review: Orchestra's soloists step into the spotlight," 14 June 2019 Shoot the tangled tree walls that keep predators from village livestock, and learn about the complex relationships between people and wildlife in Tanzania’s pastoral regions. National Geographic, "Tanzania High School Photography Workshop," 12 June 2019 After polishing off a skewer of lamb, Roodt invites me into his living room, a cavernous space dominated by chiaroscuro paintings of doll-like children in pastoral scenes. Gregory Barber, WIRED, "Inside an All-White Town’s Divisive Experiment With Cryptocurrency," 6 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

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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Statistics for pastoral

Last Updated

16 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for pastoral

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

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More Definitions for pastoral



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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