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

Keep scrolling for more

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


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

Schumann’s pastoral idyll, with its forests and flowers, is still there, but this version gives new meaning to the gentle longing that runs through the work like a river. Oussama Zahr, The New Yorker, "Fall Classical-Music Preview," 16 Aug. 2019 My role is to encourage the church at every level to become informed and active in preventing gun violence, to provide pastoral care for victims and survivors, and to seek a spiritual response to resist violence and seek Christ. Adeel Hassan,, "‘Thoughts and prayers’ aren’t enough, America’s first gun violence minister says," 28 July 2019 When thinking of streetwear, 18th-century French landscapes and pastoral scenes don’t usually come to mind. Kate Mcgregor, ELLE Decor, "A Fun New Clothing Collection from ED A-Lister Sheila Bridges," 12 July 2019 The story is a fictional gloss on the story of the real Viktor Tsoi (the swoony Teo Yoo), who helped lead the rock revolt in grungy clubs, jam sessions and pastoral idylls. Manohla Dargis, New York Times, "The Best and Worst of Cannes, Maybe Coming to a Theater Near You," 17 May 2018 These committees provide clinical papers and information, facilitate consultations between physicians, make presentations, clarify ethical issues, and arrange for pastoral care, according to the website. Serena O'sullivan, azcentral, "Here are 6 things to know about the 40K Jehovah's Witnesses coming to Phoenix," 9 Aug. 2019 Like all sacraments, said Pietrzyk, an assistant professor of pastoral studies at St. Patrick’s Seminary & University in Menlo Park, confession was divinely ordained. San Diego Union-Tribune, "‘I confess': should the ‘seal of the confessional’ protect pedophiles?," 4 Aug. 2019 There is also people-watching — my favorite sport — plus the pastoral canyon light, the doves and sparrows, the black sage and sugarbush on the hill. Los Angeles Times, "Hollywood Bowl rehearsals are a soothing morning escape. And they’re free," 1 Aug. 2019 Now Garcia, 69, is entering a new stage of his life, retired from his pastoral duties at Mission Concepción but maintaining an office at the Oblate School of Theology to continue visiting with students and writing about his experiences. Scott Huddleston,, "Father David’s role grew from San Antonio parish priest to major community leader," 8 July 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.

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

Adjective and Noun

Middle English, from Latin pastoralis, from pastor herdsman

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about pastoral

Statistics for pastoral

Last Updated

27 Aug 2019

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 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

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).


authorized for issue (as a bond)

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Musical Words Quiz

  • gramophone
  • Which word describes a musical performance marked by the absence of instrumental accompaniment?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


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!