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

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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


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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

Antique gouaches of erupting Vesuvius glowed against a lilac wall; Victorian taxidermy and pastoral dog paintings kept the men company after guests went home. Laura Regensdorf, Vogue, "Gray Foy, a Master Precisionist Who Presided Over Legendary Salons, Gets a Turn in the Spotlight," 16 Nov. 2018 The documentary, to be aired Wednesday on Discovery Italia and previewed to The Associated Press, makes the case that many of these men would gladly return to the priesthood and offer their pastoral services. Nicole Winfield, The Seattle Times, "Issue of married Catholic priests gains traction under pope," 23 Oct. 2018 Grace Hotels / Mehera Bonner Anyone obsessed with Gilmore Girls has at least heard whisperings about the tiny pastoral town of Washington Depot, Connecticut. Mehera Bonner, Marie Claire, "Where to Stay, Eat, and Drink in Washington Depot, Connecticut," 12 Oct. 2018 Three of them have been suspended from all their pastoral work. Fox News, "Polish bishop apologizes to victims of clergy sex abuse," 27 Sep. 2018 With a little softening and finessing, the houses blend right into Kinkade’s overwrought pastoral paintings. Liz Stinson, Curbed, "Iconic modern houses get the Thomas Kinkade treatment," 24 Aug. 2018 Written and directed by and starring Mackenzie Crook, this beautiful pastoral comedy – set around metal-detecting hobbyists searching for Saxon gold and spiritual connection – makes a song out of the present and past, what changes and what remains. Robert Lloyd,, "Critic's picks for Emmy nominations: Love for Kristen Bell, ‘Twin Peaks’ and … ‘Detectorists’," 10 July 2018 But the pastoral setting masked a sinister conflict. New York Times, "In Colombian Death Ranch Case, Some Fear Prosecution Will Be Buried," 8 July 2018 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

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.

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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


Middle English, from Latin pastoralis, from pastor herdsman


see pastoral entry 1

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Statistics for pastoral

Last Updated

3 Dec 2018

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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 \

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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Comments on pastoral

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a soft lustrous wool fabric with mohair

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