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


pas·​to·​ral | \ 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) \
plural pastorals

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 a charge: such as
a : a letter addressed by a bishop to the bishop's diocese
b : a letter of the house of bishops of the Protestant Episcopal Church to be read in each parish

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 Whereas the city center facing the ocean is mostly flat, the outskirts look attractively pastoral—where sheep flocks graze along green slopes beside wooden farmhouses that appear Tyrolean. Tom Mullen, Forbes, 2 Jan. 2022 Farming jobs had disappeared and families were moving away from this pastoral patch of French-speaking Belgium. Washington Post, 26 Dec. 2021 These roles don't lend themselves to combination, particularly in a bitterly partisan time like ours, and the pastoral duties will tend to suffer if the two are mashed together. Bonnie Kristian, The Week, 22 July 2021 The show, a Broadway musical mashup of an English Renaissance pastoral romance and classic hits from the Go-Go’s, was reconceived to welcome theatergoers back with a high voltage shock of communal joy. Los Angeles Times, 17 Dec. 2021 Some funds will be used to add residence space to the school’s pastoral campus off Bushy Hill Road as student housing is now at capacity, school spokeswoman Michelle Helmin said. Jesse Leavenworth,, 8 Dec. 2021 People are drawn to the region because of its natural beauty, its pastoral way of living, its ranches and farms and rolling hills. Annie Blanks, San Antonio Express-News, 6 Dec. 2021 Despite its pastoral roots, fantasy filmmaking has long counted upon its practitioners to nail the look and vibe of its fictional capital cities. Sean T. Collins, Vulture, 3 Dec. 2021 Grass-fed butter goes into each one, and its pastoral freshness plays off the flavor of the long fermentation. Washington Post, 28 Nov. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Watkins is a necessary writer for a changing American pastoral. Hillary Kelly, Vulture, 15 Dec. 2021 In considering the relationship between Sublimity and the English pastoral, there appeared to be two schools of thought. Henry Wismayer, Washington Post, 8 Sep. 2021 Nothing takes me back to the Midwestern pastoral of my youth quite like the smells of springtime: freshly cut grass with an edge of lawnmower fuel, the sweet ozone of an imminent thunderstorm. Helen Rosner, The New Yorker, 3 June 2021 The Golden Globes’ decision to place the film, an American pastoral, in its foreign-language category only underscores the continual unbelonging of Asian Americans. Anne Anlin Cheng, The Atlantic, 19 Feb. 2021 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, 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,, 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, 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, 21 Feb. 2018

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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Last Updated

7 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Pastoral.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Jan. 2022.

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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

More from Merriam-Webster on pastoral

Nglish: Translation of pastoral for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of pastoral for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about pastoral


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