[pas-ter-uhl, pah-ster-]
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  1. having the simplicity, charm, serenity, or other characteristics generally attributed to rural areas: pastoral scenery; the pastoral life.
  2. pertaining to the country or to life in the country; rural; rustic.
  3. 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.
  4. of, relating to, or consisting of shepherds.
  5. of or relating to a pastor or the duties of a pastor: pastoral visits to a hospital.
  6. used for pasture, as land.
  1. 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.
  2. a picture or work of art representing the shepherds' life.
  3. Music. pastorale.
  4. a treatise on the duties of a pastor.
  5. a letter to the people from their spiritual pastor.
  6. a letter to the clergy or people of an ecclesiastical district from its bishop.
  7. 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 formspas·to·ral·ly, adverbnon·pas·to·ral, adjective, nounnon·pas·to·ral·ly, adverbsem·i·pas·to·ral, adjectivesem·i·pas·to·ral·ly, adverbun·pas·to·ral, adjectiveun·pas·to·ral·ly, adverb
Can be confusedpastoral pastorale

Synonyms for pastoral

See more synonyms for on Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for pastoral

Contemporary Examples of pastoral

Historical Examples of pastoral

British Dictionary definitions for pastoral


  1. of, characterized by, or depicting rural life, scenery, etc
  2. (of a literary work) dealing with an idealized form of rural existence in a conventional way
  3. (of land) used for pasture
  4. denoting or relating to the branch of theology dealing with the duties of a clergyman or priest to his congregation
  5. of or relating to a clergyman or priest in charge of a congregation or his duties as such
  6. of or relating to a teacher's responsibility for the personal, as the distinct from the educational, development of pupils
  7. of or relating to shepherds, their work, etc
  1. a literary work or picture portraying rural life, esp the lives of shepherds in an idealizing waySee also eclogue
  2. music a variant of pastorale
  3. Christianity
    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 staffthe crosier or staff carried by a bishop as a symbol of his pastoral responsibilities
Derived Formspastoralism, nounpastorally, adverb

Word Origin for pastoral

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

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

pastoral in Culture


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 Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.