protagonist

noun
pro·​tag·​o·​nist | \ prō-ˈta-gə-nist How to pronounce protagonist (audio) \

Definition of protagonist

1a(1) : the principal character in a literary work (such as a drama or story)
(2) : the leading actor or principal character in a television show, movie, book, etc.
b : an active participant in an event
2 : a leader, proponent, or supporter of a cause : champion

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Did You Know?

Struggle, or conflict, is central to drama. The protagonist or hero of a play, novel, or film is involved in a struggle of some kind, either against someone or something else or even against his or her own emotions. So the hero is the "first struggler", which is the literal meaning of the Greek word prōtagōnistēs. A character who opposes the hero is the antagonist, from a Greek verb that means literally "to struggle against".

Examples of protagonist in a Sentence

Badlands has two protagonists and Days of Heaven four (though both movies are rich in colorful minor roles). — Richard Alleva, Commonweal, 12 Mar. 1999 The protagonists of Gordon's fiction are children who have been saddled with their parents' emotional bad debts. — Judith Thurman, New Yorker, 12 Mar. 1990 The most adamant opposition to my argument is likely to come from protagonists of secular reason … — Glenn Finder, Atlantic, December 1989 She was a leading protagonist in the civil rights movement. Milton Friedman is usually cited as the leading American protagonist of monetarism.
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Recent Examples on the Web

Melissa Gilbert stars as protagonist and frequent narrator Laura. Blair Donovan, Country Living, "'Little House on the Prairie' Is Now Streaming on Amazon So Cancel Your Weekend Plans," 6 Mar. 2019 On his splashy Instagram page, image after image depicts Bendriouich, handlebar mustache and all, fully made up as the protagonist of his own fanciful Moroccan-set period piece. Lilah Ramzi, Vogue, "Designer and Glamour Boy Amine Bendriouich Puts a Unisex Spin on Dressing à la Marocaine," 5 Sep. 2018 Like such characters as Pechorin and Rudin, Melville’s protagonist does not fit in with society. James Gardner, WSJ, "Debilitated, But Infinitely Human," 31 Aug. 2018 In this tale of strengthening ties, the border-hoppers are the main protagonists. The Economist, "Why America and Mexico are destined to grow even closer," 21 June 2018 That’s what makes Sideways, whose wine-touring protagonist is actually a middle-aged slob, so relatable—and hilarious. Cnt Editors, Condé Nast Traveler, "The 45 Best Travel Films of All Time," 11 May 2018 In general, people of color are highly underrepresented as protagonists. Emily Matchar, Smithsonian, "This Texas Company Is Fighting Hollywood’s Gender Inequality With Hard Data From Movie Scripts," 23 Mar. 2018 Perhaps a standard housewarming gift, but for Mandy, there's a little extra significance: In season two, episode 13 of This Is Us, a Crock-Pot features prominently in the death of the show's protagonist Jack. Krystin Arneson, Glamour, "Ellen DeGeneres Just Gave 'This Is Us' Star Mandy Moore the Perfect Housewarming Gift," 3 Mar. 2018 The protagonist, Miss Queen Royal Highness Kate Hudson, works for a magazine writing How To articles—but wants more from her work. Danny Murphy, Marie Claire, "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days," 15 Feb. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'protagonist.' 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 protagonist

1671, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for protagonist

Greek prōtagōnistēs, from prōt- prot- + agōnistēs competitor at games, actor, from agōnizesthai to compete, from agōn contest, competition at games — more at agony

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Last Updated

15 Mar 2019

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Time Traveler for protagonist

The first known use of protagonist was in 1671

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More Definitions for protagonist

protagonist

noun

English Language Learners Definition of protagonist

: the main character in a novel, play, movie, etc.
: an important person who is involved in a competition, conflict, or cause

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