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

This lack of a clear protagonist is not incompetence on Kubrick's part, as every other film in his oeuvre demonstrates. Peter Opaskar, Ars Technica, "2001 in 70mm: Pod bay doors look better than ever, still won’t open," 21 July 2018 Elisabeth Egan’s protagonist is a working mother going back into the field to work at what can only be considered as a fictional version of Amazon Books. Rachel King, Fortune, "Your Summer Reading List: Page-Turning Novels Set in Politics, Finance, and Tech," 6 July 2018 In the trailer, Lina, the game’s protagonist, is giving people rides to kill time and make a little money in the process. Megan Farokhmanesh, The Verge, "Neo Cab’s first trailer channels cyberpunk Uber vibes," 11 June 2018 In that novel’s denouement, the protagonist Charles’s love interest, Julia, renounces him, because she, in accordance with Catholic teaching, cannot bring herself to remarry after a divorce. Tara Isabella Burton, Vox, "The religious hunger that drives Jordan Peterson’s fandom," 1 June 2018 Parts of the left, faced with the facts that Marx’s working class was neither homogeneous nor history’s protagonist, substituted for it a romanticized third world. Mitchell Cohen, New York Times, "Did the Crusade for Human Rights Lead to More Inequality?," 18 May 2018 The show has a lot of fun with its protagonist’s weaknesses and, at first, Cumberbatch exercises his fussy Sherlock sensibilities to excellent effect, playing Patrick’s quirks as simultaneously irrefutable and ridiculous. Sonia Saraiya, HWD, "Review: Benedict Cumberbatch Shines as Drug-Addled Aristocrat Patrick Melrose," 9 May 2018 The Jewel by Amy Ewing Like Offred, The Jewel’s protagonist is not addressed by her real name. Peggy Truong, Cosmopolitan, "12 Dystopian Books You Should Read if You Like The Handmaid’s Tale," 20 Apr. 2017 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

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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Learn More about protagonist

Statistics for protagonist

Last Updated

29 Mar 2019

Look-up Popularity

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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