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nov·​el ˈnä-vəl How to pronounce novel (audio)
: new and not resembling something formerly known or used
New technologies are posing novel problems.
: not previously identified
transmission of a novel coronavirus
a novel genetic mutation
novel bacterial strains
: original or striking especially in conception or style
a novel scheme to collect money
novel solutions


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: an invented prose narrative that is usually long and complex and deals especially with human experience through a usually connected sequence of events
: the literary genre consisting of novels
novelistic adjective
novelistically adverb

Did you know?

If someone tells you that you've come up with a novel idea or a novel interpretation of something, it's probably a compliment: not everyone is capable of original thinking. But not everything new is terribly worthwhile; a novelty, for example, is often a cute (or maybe just silly) little object that you might put on a display shelf in your house. It may seem surprising that the familiar noun novel is related as well. In the 14th century, Italian writers began writing collections of short tales, each of which they called a novella because it represented a new literary form; from this word, three centuries later, the English coined the noun novel.

Choose the Right Synonym for novel

new, novel, original, fresh mean having recently come into existence or use.

new may apply to what is freshly made and unused

new brick

or has not been known before

new designs

or not experienced before.

starts the new job

novel applies to what is not only new but strange or unprecedented.

a novel approach to the problem

original applies to what is the first of its kind to exist.

a man without one original idea

fresh applies to what has not lost its qualities of newness such as liveliness, energy, brightness.

a fresh start

Example Sentences

Adjective She has suggested a novel approach to the problem. Handheld computers are novel devices.
Recent Examples on the Web
This might be a little less noticeable if the show were doing anything truly novel with those conventions. Erik Adams, Chron, 15 May 2023 Three years after the emergence of a novel coronavirus brought the world to a standstill, the World Health Organization announced that covid-19 no longer represents a global health emergency. Andrew J. Hawkins, The Verge, 5 May 2023 But Schulze, who cut his teeth at the FDA regulating novel foods before jumping to the private sector, rests easy on this point. Andrew Zaleski, The New Republic, 21 Apr. 2023 However, a novel astronomy detection technique known as microlensing is starting to fill in the gaps. Briley Lewis, Popular Science, 18 Apr. 2023 In late March, my company announced a partnership with GSK to commercialize and further develop our novel antifungal. David Angulo, Fortune, 11 Apr. 2023 Topped with lettuce, onions, pickles, special sauce and a sprinkle of sesame seeds, this creation is uncannily both novel and nostalgic. Mara Severin | Eating Out, Anchorage Daily News, 6 Apr. 2023 Within a few years the novel classification was proved to be a mistake; it was retracted in 1927. Mark Fischetti, Scientific American, 1 Apr. 2023 The London production of 'Life of Pi' makes a glorious transfer to Broadway | Credit: Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade Since the release of Yann Martel's novel Life of Pi in 2001, it's become an international best-seller and the basis for Ang Lee's Oscar-winning film in 2012. Lauren Morgan,, 31 Mar. 2023
Starring Benoît Magimel and Juliette Binoche as a 19th-century gourmet and his cook, this adaptation of a novel by Marcel Rouff charmed critics and audiences with its mouthwatering culinary sequences and genteel romance. Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times, 27 May 2023 The novel is a fascinating ode to storytelling, family, first love, and resilient hearts. Monitor Reviewers, The Christian Science Monitor, 26 May 2023 The film stars Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, and Tommy Lee Jones and is based on the 2005 novel of the same name. Vulture, 26 May 2023 Alias Grace Watch Now Based on the novel by Booker Prize-winning author Margaret Atwood, this thriller was inspired by the real life case of Grace Marks, a domestic servant who was convicted of the murder of her employer in 1843 Ontario. Lauren Hubbard, Town & Country, 25 May 2023 There’s more: Those looking for love stories should check out the best romance novels of 2022. Louis Bayard, Washington Post, 25 May 2023 Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s ‘Chain-Gang All-Stars’ is one of the year’s goriest novels. Chicago Tribune Staff, Chicago Tribune, 24 May 2023 The next few weeks are set to feature big moments for Kiyoko, who’s set to release her debut novel, Girls Like Girls, based on her beloved single, on May 30. Tomás Mier, Rolling Stone, 24 May 2023 The feature is directed by BAFTA winner Mahalia Belo (The Long Song) from a script written by Alice Birch (Normal People, Dead Ringers) and based on the novel by Megan Hunter. Alex Ritman, The Hollywood Reporter, 17 May 2023 See More

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

Word History



Middle English, borrowed from Anglo-French & continental Old French, "new" — more at nouveau


earlier nouell, nouelle "short prose narrative," borrowed from Italian novella — more at novella

First Known Use


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1639, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of novel was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near novel

Cite this Entry

“Novel.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Jun. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 adjective
nov·​el ˈnäv-əl How to pronounce novel (audio)
: new and different from what has been known before
: original or striking in design or appearance
a novel way to make money


2 of 2 noun
: a long prose narrative that usually portrays imaginary characters and events

More from Merriam-Webster on novel

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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