pas·to·ral | \ˈpa-st(ə-)rəl, 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; sense 1d is often ˌpa-stə-ˈräl, -ˈral \

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

d : pastorale sense 1a

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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from pastoral


pastorally \ˈpa-st(ə-)rə-lē \ adverb
pastoralness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for pastoral

Synonyms: Adjective

bucolic, country, rural, rustic (also rustical)

Antonyms: Adjective


Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

In 1979, when the war was at its peak, Cardinal Obando wrote a pastoral letter urging Nicaraguans not to fear socialism and seeming to endorse the use of revolutionary violence in some circumstances. Stephen Kinzer,, "Miguel Obando y Bravo, 92, key figure in Nicaraguan turmoil," 4 June 2018 In 1979, when the war was at its peak, Archbishop Obando wrote a pastoral letter urging Nicaraguans not to fear socialism and seeming to endorse the use of revolutionary violence in some circumstances. Stephen Kinzer, New York Times, "Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo, Key Figure in Nicaraguan Turmoil, Dies at 92," 3 June 2018 Judith also did pastoral work at Our Lady of Hope Parish for many years, and served as the Director of the Diocesan Renew Program, Director of Jericho Homes in Holyoke and Director of the Office of Pastoral Ministry for the Diocese of Springfield. Hartford Courant,, "Sr. Judith Smeltz SSJ," 1 May 2018 Conductor Davies led the orchestra in sensitive accompaniments and vivid interludes ranging from pastoral tone-painting to moments of near-stillness to vast, granite blocks of sound. Howard Reich,, "Grant Park Orchestra review: A fitting 80th birthday tribute to William Bolcom," 7 July 2018 The pastoral moralism that he was often accused of peddling was actually a clever sleight of hand. Tyler Malone,, "The road taken by Robert Frost through New England," 29 June 2018 The game may have become the sport of choice in those communities because the pastoral qualities of the game fit the immigrant’s agrarian lifestyles. Roy Bragg, San Antonio Express-News, "German (and Czech) towns are baseball hotbeds," 3 June 2018 Vote Like a Girl will take place outside Washington Irving’s Sunnyside, the author’s pastoral estate. Laurel Graeber, New York Times, "9 Things to Do With Your Kids in N.Y.C. This Weekend," 12 July 2018 Even by the generous standards of pastoral fantasy, this play is a dreamy immersion in a place where magic spells are the norm. Mike Giuliano, Howard County Times, "A Midsummer Night in Ellicott City," 28 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

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.

See More

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


Middle English, from Latin pastoralis, from pastor herdsman


see pastoral entry 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about pastoral

Statistics for pastoral

Last Updated

24 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for pastoral

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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 \

Kids Definition of pastoral

1 : of or relating to peaceful scenes of the countryside

2 : of or relating to the pastor of a church

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on pastoral

What made you want to look up pastoral? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


lying above or upon

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words from Greek and Roman Mythology Quiz

  • the-triumph-of-venus-by-alessandro-magnasco
  • Boreal comes from the name of the ancient Greek god of which wind?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!


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!