noun pro·tag·o·nist \prō-ˈta-gə-nist\

Definition of protagonist

  1. 1a :  the principal character in a literary work (such as a drama or story)b :  a leading actor, character, or participant in a literary work or real event

  2. 2 :  a leader, proponent, or supporter of a cause :  champion

Examples of protagonist in a sentence

  1. Badlands has two protagonists and Days of Heaven four (though both movies are rich in colorful minor roles). —Richard Alleva, Commonweal, 12 Mar. 1999

  2. 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

  3. The most adamant opposition to my argument is likely to come from protagonists of secular reason … —Glenn Finder, Atlantic, December 1989

  4. She was a leading protagonist in the civil rights movement.

  5. Milton Friedman is usually cited as the leading American protagonist of monetarism.

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".

Origin and Etymology of protagonist

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

First Known Use: 1671

PROTAGONIST Defined for English Language Learners


noun pro·tag·o·nist \prō-ˈta-gə-nist\

Definition of protagonist for English Language Learners

  • : 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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