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

Ariel, the show’s protagonist, is a mermaid and the youngest daughter of a king. Catalina Righter,, "September Song presents ‘The Little Mermaid’ for anniversary year production," 29 Aug. 2019 Mr Meek goes further: each protagonist speaks in a different register. The Economist, "Love in the time of the Black Death," 29 Aug. 2019 In 2000, the year before Michael Owen won the Ballon d’Or no less, Michael Owen appeared out of the poster on a young boy’s bedroom wall to dish out life advice to protagonist Charlie Brice., "7 Footballers Who Featured on TV Shows After Neymar Rocks Up in Netflix's Money Heist," 28 Aug. 2019 Making explicit the protagonist’s Jewish background, the heart-wrenching black-and-white film brings to life the horrors of the Holocaust through the dark, somber eyes of extraordinary newcomer Petr Kotlar. Thr Staff, The Hollywood Reporter, "Hollywood Reporter Critics' 20 Favorite Films From the Fall Festivals," 15 Sep. 2019 Thrilling though the dramatis personae may have been, the protagonist came to a sad end. Peter Nicholas, The Atlantic, "The End of the Golden Era of Chess," 5 Sep. 2019 The show absolutely had to dress him up as the eponymous protagonist of The Biggest Turkey in the World and trot him out in the amusement park—and, of course, Roman had to insult the paying customers in the crudest manner possible. Rey Mashayekhi, Fortune, "‘Succession’ Recap, S2E4: The Gold Rush," 3 Sep. 2019 Muzamil, the protagonist of You Will Die at Twenty (Satamoto Fel Eshreen), is given the titular death sentence during a ceremony celebrating his birth in the Sudan, which obviously haunts him — and his mother — for the following two decades. Boyd Van Hoeij, The Hollywood Reporter, "'You Will Die at Twenty' ('Satamoto Fel Eshreen'): Film Review | Venice 2019," 31 Aug. 2019 Gabriela Diaz, the protagonist of Netflix’s newest rom-com, Falling Inn Love, thinks the world is planted firmly beneath her feet. Hannah Giorgis, The Atlantic, "Netflix Wants You to Ditch the Hustle and Find Love," 31 Aug. 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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Statistics for protagonist

Last Updated

11 Oct 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



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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to be made up of

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