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[pas-ter-uh l, pah-ster-] /ˈpæs tər əl, ˈpɑ stər-/
having the simplicity, charm, serenity, or other characteristics generally attributed to rural areas:
pastoral scenery; the pastoral life.
pertaining to the country or to life in the country; rural; rustic.
portraying or suggesting idyllically the life of shepherds or of the country, as a work of literature, art, or music:
pastoral poetry; a pastoral symphony.
of, relating to, or consisting of shepherds.
of or relating to a pastor or the duties of a pastor:
pastoral visits to a hospital.
used for pasture, as land.
a poem, play, or the like, dealing with the life of shepherds, commonly in a conventional or artificial manner, or with simple rural life generally; a bucolic.
a picture or work of art representing the shepherds' life.
Music. pastorale.
a treatise on the duties of a pastor.
a letter to the people from their spiritual pastor.
a letter to the clergy or people of an ecclesiastical district from its bishop.
Also called pastoral staff. crosier (def 1).
Origin of pastoral
1350-1400; Middle English < Latin pāstōrālis, equivalent to pāstōr-, stem of pāstor (see pastor) + -ālis -al1
Related forms
pastorally, adverb
nonpastoral, adjective, noun
nonpastorally, adverb
semipastoral, adjective
semipastorally, adverb
unpastoral, adjective
unpastorally, adverb
Can be confused
pastoral, pastorale.
1. rustic, rural, simple. 3. bucolic, idyllic. 7. eclogue, idyll; georgic. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for pastoral
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The pastoral interest is the pioneer interest of a new colony.

  • It was a scene of quiet, pastoral beauty that now met our eyes.

    The Roof of France Matilda Betham-Edwards
  • How sweet and pastoral are these cool resting-places in the heart of the Vosges!

    In the Heart of Vosges Matilda Betham-Edwards
  • And you content to live here, too, leading this simple, pastoral life!

    In the Valley Harold Frederic
  • Persons of our rank do not marry like the Corydon and Phyllis of a pastoral.

    Alice, or The Mysteries, Complete Edward Bulwer-Lytton
British Dictionary definitions for pastoral


of, characterized by, or depicting rural life, scenery, etc
(of a literary work) dealing with an idealized form of rural existence in a conventional way
(of land) used for pasture
denoting or relating to the branch of theology dealing with the duties of a clergyman or priest to his congregation
of or relating to a clergyman or priest in charge of a congregation or his duties as such
of or relating to a teacher's responsibility for the personal, as the distinct from the educational, development of pupils
of or relating to shepherds, their work, etc
a literary work or picture portraying rural life, esp the lives of shepherds in an idealizing way See also eclogue
(music) a variant of pastorale
  1. a letter from a clergyman to the people under his charge
  2. the letter of a bishop to the clergy or people of his diocese
  3. Also called pastoral staff. the crosier or staff carried by a bishop as a symbol of his pastoral responsibilities
Derived Forms
pastoralism, noun
pastorally, adverb
Word Origin
C15: from Latin, from pastor
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for pastoral

"of or pertaining to shepherds," early 15c., from Old French pastoral (13c.), from Latin pastoralis "of herdsmen, of shepherds," from pastor (see pastor (n.)). The noun sense of "poem dealing with country life generally" is from 1580s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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pastoral in Culture

pastoral definition

A work of art that celebrates the cultivated enjoyment of the countryside. The poem “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love,” by Christopher Marlowe, is a pastoral. Its first stanza reads:

Come live with me, and be my love;
And we will all the pleasures prove
That hills and valleys, dales and fields,
Woods or steepy mountain yields.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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