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

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 title is given to churches to signify a closer relationship with the pope and an emphasis on liturgical worship and pastoral life. Miriam Marini, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit’s Ste. Anne Church becomes third in Michigan to receive title of ‘minor basilica’," 1 Mar. 2020 New York Times op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristof grew up in the small working-class town of Yamhill, Ore., where his family enjoyed the idylls of pastoral life. Drew Tewksbury, Los Angeles Times, "The middle-class squeeze, brilliant fantasies, lab love and ostriches: 5 top book events," 21 Feb. 2020 By the summer before his last year of college, Dr. King knew he was destined to continue the family profession of pastoral work and decided to enter the ministry. National Geographic, "Who was Martin Luther King, Jr.?," 15 Jan. 2020 Major rebuilding works were carried out in the late 18th and early 19th centuries by the Carnarvon family and the old brick and freestone house was converted to a classical Georgian mansion within a pastoral setting. Sarah Bray, Town & Country, "What It's Really Like to Get Married at Downton Abbey," 30 July 2019 The trail passes an old stone wall that showcases the area’s pastoral past. Peter Marteka,, "Swallowed up by the natural world near the bustling UConn campus," 26 July 2019 Hours after Pope Francis announced his appointment as bishop of West Virginia, the Most Rev. Mark E. Brennan vowed to bring one of his trademark strengths to bear on his work in a diocese long plagued by scandal: a gift for pastoral sensitivity. Jonathan Pitts,, "Baltimore auxiliary bishop to bring pastoral ways to a West Virginia diocese troubled by scandal," 23 July 2019 Roswell, then only 7 years old, showed his displeasure by shoving rocks into the tailpipes of the bulldozers that came to dig up the pastoral expanse outside Baltimore to make way for new construction. Anna Altman, Washington Post, "The Millennials Who Want to Get Rid of Their Class Privilege," 2 Mar. 2020 The 17th-century estate retains a pastoral, cloistered feeling, with gabled windows, stone chimneys jutting from the roof and deep red Virginia creeper climbing the handsome gray stone facade. Tina Hillier, Smithsonian Magazine, "The Defiance of Florence Nightingale," 20 Feb. 2020 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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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

25 Mar 2020

Cite this Entry

“Pastoral.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Apr. 2020.

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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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