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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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.
Recent Examples on the Web The protagonist in the franchise is based on the comic book character created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. Mike Rose, cleveland, 14 May 2022 Charles, who died in 1905, is a protagonist in The Hare with the Amber Eyes. Brian T. Allen, National Review, 10 Mar. 2022 Gone are the fictive characters: Instead, the sea itself becomes a complicated protagonist in a cosmic adventure. Danny Heitman, WSJ, 3 Mar. 2022 Also in the command center: Oleksander’s sword and crossbow — a nod to his code name, Witcher, the protagonist in a fantasy novel series by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. Washington Post, 15 Feb. 2022 Give a girl in a gig economy a chance: that's all Aubrey Plaza's broke protagonist in Emily the Criminal (which premiered last night at the Sundance Film Festival) is looking for. Leah Greenblatt,, 26 Jan. 2022 For this, Adolphe has the perfect protagonist in Chalifour. Los Angeles Times, 7 Dec. 2021 That film was inspired by the energy of ‘Chen Zen’ the protagonist: the story of a growing and hungry martial artist who has something to prove. Goldie Chan, Forbes, 22 Apr. 2022 Footage from WeChat showed how the social media site floated a black box around manually in an attempt to cover up Meg’s ass, her set’s protagonist. Tomás Mier, Rolling Stone, 19 Apr. 2022 See More

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.

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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The first known use of protagonist was in 1671

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Last Updated

18 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Protagonist.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 May. 2022.

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More from Merriam-Webster on protagonist

Nglish: Translation of protagonist for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of protagonist for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about protagonist


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