protagonist

noun
pro·​tag·​o·​nist | \prō-ˈta-gə-nist \

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

Pennsylvania pediatrician Robert Olympia and his colleagues sat through 10 superhero movies released in 2015 and 2016, cataloging each specific act of violence and noting whether it was committed by a protagonist or villain. Jonathan M. Gitlin, Ars Technica, "Forget movie villains—it’s the “good” superheroes that are the most violent," 9 Nov. 2018 Even the law firm working for the board has become a protagonist. Joe Flint, WSJ, "A Drama CBS Can’t Cancel—the One in Its Boardroom," 15 Oct. 2018 In essence, a white male protagonist was like the type-O blood for representation. Mattie Kahn, Glamour, "Geena Davis Knows Women Are Good for Hollywood's Bottom Line. So What Gives?," 19 Sep. 2018 The show boasted a real lack of heroes—or even people who weren’t just the absolute moral worst—making Skyler the closest thing to a protagonist the series had. Anne T. Donahue, Marie Claire, "Even If You Hated Skyler White on Breaking Bad, She Changed TV Forever," 9 Aug. 2018 The game is priced nicely, features a jovial, marsupial protagonist with a manic personality, and was an essential part of PlayStation history. Harold Goldberg, chicagotribune.com, "Classic games, lovingly reimagined in 'Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy'," 13 July 2018 But the landscape is slowly changing: In 2014, Jane the Virgin unveiled a Latina protagonist with Rory Gilmore–like traits, a year after Amy Santiago arrived. Sauleha Kamal, The Atlantic, "The Character Who Made Me Love Brooklyn Nine-Nine," 12 June 2018 The company’s star of the moment, Guillaume Côté, offered a technically brilliant, emotionally compelling protagonist, tempering flights of irrationality with wisdom. Allan Ulrich, San Francisco Chronicle, "As S.F. Ballet readies for festival, Canadian company gives its all in ‘Nijinsky’," 4 Apr. 2018 There’s a terminally awkward yet super attractive protagonist. Barbara Vandenburgh, azcentral, "Gay teen romance 'Love, Simon' will make you fall head over heels," 15 Mar. 2018

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

6 Dec 2018

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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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