sa·​ga ˈsä-gə How to pronounce saga (audio)
 also  ˈsa-
: a prose narrative recorded in Iceland in the 12th and 13th centuries of historic or legendary figures and events of the heroic age of Norway and Iceland
: a modern heroic narrative resembling the Icelandic saga
: a long detailed account
a saga of the Old South
also : a dramatic and often complicated story or series of events
For many people, the process caps an already lengthy immigration sagaNora Caplan-Bricker
A federal appeals court hears arguments Tuesday in the legal saga of two film producers fighting long prison terms and prosecutions … Jordan S. Rubin

Did you know?

The original sagas were Icelandic prose narratives that were roughly analogous to modern historical novels. They were penned in the 12th and 13th centuries, and blended fact and fiction to tell the tales of famous rulers, legendary heroes, and average folks of Iceland and Norway. And they were aptly named: saga traces back to an Old Norse root that means "tale." The English word first referred only to those original Icelandic stories, but saga later broadened to cover other narratives reminiscent of those, and the word was eventually further generalized to cover any long, complicated scenario.

Did you know?

A Brief History of Saga

Saga was originally used to describe Icelandic prose narratives composed in the 12th and 13th centuries. The word first appeared in English in that sense during the 18th century; by the middle of the 19th century we were employing saga in a somewhat looser fashion, in reference to modern stories involving heroic deeds that bore some resemblance to the Icelandic tales of yore. By the 20th century saga had come to be applied to other written works, typically a novel or series of novels, especially those that took place over a significant period of time. Today the word may also be used to describe a long and drawn-out story that is either written or spoken (as in “my neighbor told me the saga of his divorce again”). Saga comes from an Old Norse word of the same spelling. It does not have any connection with the adjective sagacious (“possessing quick intellectual perceptions”), which comes from the Latin sagax (“sagacious”).

Examples of saga in a Sentence

the saga of a shipwrecked crew Her first novel was a family saga set in Iowa. Getting our car back turned into quite a saga.
Recent Examples on the Web Over the weekend, officers arrested the fourth escapee, bringing the saga to a close. Jonathan Edwards, Washington Post, 22 Nov. 2023 Set in 1980, the family saga picks up with Tong and Quang (played by Maureen Sebastian and Ben Levin) hitting a rough patch. Elisabeth Vincentelli, New York Times, 17 Nov. 2023 Interest in the latter saga fizzled amid the unwise decision to stretch out the third novel in Suzanne Collins’s trilogy with enough filler to constitute two films. Kyle Smith, WSJ, 16 Nov. 2023 The episodes also render Dodi — often reduced to a footnote in the Diana saga — in a more three-dimensional fashion, as someone who struggled to escape his father’s shadow. Meredith Blake, Los Angeles Times, 16 Nov. 2023 The nine-part saga is based on Donald L. Miller’s book of the same name. Vulture, 9 Nov. 2023 For most other martial arts sagas, this would be the jaw-dropping climax of the entire story. Alan Sepinwall, Rolling Stone, 9 Nov. 2023 Its bankruptcy ends a saga that torched billions of Softbank Group Inc.’s cash. Bailey Lipschultz, Fortune, 7 Nov. 2023 Related Stories The painful saga goes back decades and provides an unsettling X-ray on the family life of a man who became an icon, especially among generations of African Americans, for playing the paterfamilias James Evans Sr. on Good Times. Gary Baum, The Hollywood Reporter, 10 Nov. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'saga.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Old Norse — more at saw

First Known Use

1709, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of saga was in 1709


Dictionary Entries Near saga

Cite this Entry

“Saga.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Nov. 2023.

Kids Definition


sa·​ga ˈsäg-ə How to pronounce saga (audio)
: a tale of figures and events of Norway and Iceland from history or legend
: a story of heroic deeds
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!