[ pas-ter-uhl, pah-ster- ]
See synonyms for: pastoralpastorals on

  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.

  1. 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.

  2. of, relating to, or consisting of shepherds.

  3. of or relating to a pastor or the duties of a pastor: pastoral visits to a hospital.

  4. 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.

  1. Music. pastorale.

  2. a treatise on the duties of a pastor.

  3. a letter to the people from their spiritual pastor.

  4. a letter to the clergy or people of an ecclesiastical district from its bishop.

  5. 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

Other words for pastoral

Other words from pastoral

  • pas·to·ral·ly, adverb
  • non·pas·to·ral, adjective, noun
  • non·pas·to·ral·ly, adverb
  • sem·i·pas·to·ral, adjective
  • sem·i·pas·to·ral·ly, adverb
  • un·pas·to·ral, adjective
  • un·pas·to·ral·ly, adverb

Words that may be confused with pastoral Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use pastoral in a sentence

  • Her home was in the heart of the most pastorally lovely of Scottish shires—that of Dumfries.

    McClure's Magazine December, 1895 | Edited by Ida M. Tarbell
  • He had notes less pastorally imageable, notes that fired the blood, with the ranging of his theme.

  • I have been visiting your friend Mr. Wilkinson, pastorally, and am just delighted with him.

    Two Knapsacks | John Campbell

British Dictionary definitions for pastoral


/ (ˈpɑːstərəl) /

  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

  1. (of land) used for pasture

  2. denoting or relating to the branch of theology dealing with the duties of a clergyman or priest to his congregation

  3. of or relating to a clergyman or priest in charge of a congregation or his duties as such

  4. of or relating to a teacher's responsibility for the personal, as the distinct from the educational, development of pupils

  5. 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 way: See also eclogue

  2. music a variant of pastorale

  1. Christianity

    • a letter from a clergyman to the people under his charge

    • the letter of a bishop to the clergy or people of his diocese

    • Also called: pastoral staff the crosier or staff carried by a bishop as a symbol of his pastoral responsibilities

Origin of pastoral

C15: from Latin, from pastor

Derived forms of pastoral

  • pastoralism, noun
  • pastorally, adverb

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

Cultural definitions for pastoral


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.