9 Grammatical Pitfalls


[proh-tag-uh-nist] /proʊˈtæg ə nɪst/
the leading character, hero, or heroine of a drama or other literary work.
a proponent for or advocate of a political cause, social program, etc.
the leader or principal person in a movement, cause, etc.
the first actor in ancient Greek drama, who played not only the main role, but also other roles when the main character was offstage.
Physiology, agonist.
Origin of protagonist
1665-75; < Greek prōtagōnistḗs actor who plays the first part, literally, first combatant, equivalent to prôt(os) first + agōnistḗs one who contends for a prize, combatant, actor. See proto-, antagonist
Related forms
protagonism, noun
Can be confused
antagonist, proponent, protagonist. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for protagonist
  • His beautifully crafted story puts uranium into its complex context as a key protagonist on the world stage.
  • The protagonist is overcome with joy when he finds a spider.
  • In the final scene, the protagonist prepares to fight the alpha wolf.
  • The protagonist tying and retying the knot of his own fate.
  • The protagonist has been grievously wounded by a fellow member of his organization.
  • The protagonist moves from that personal crisis into a worldly crisis.
  • Whatever her story, she is the protagonist, the secret self's personification.
  • As the protagonist loses his grip on reality, scenes are jumbled together and the art becomes sketchy and inconsistent.
  • Nearly every story's protagonist suffers from something of a protective shield cast by the writer.
  • These visions seem fit compensation for the unreflective solitude of the protagonist's existence.
British Dictionary definitions for protagonist


the principal character in a play, story, etc
a supporter, esp when important or respected, of a cause, political party, etc
Derived Forms
protagonism, noun
Word Origin
C17: from Greek prōtagōnistēs, from prōtos first + agōnistēs actor
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 protagonist

1670s, "principal character in a story, drama, etc.," from Greek protagonistes "actor who plays the chief or first part," from protos "first" (see proto-) + agonistes "actor, competitor," from agon "contest" (see act (n.)). Meaning "leading person in any cause or contest" is from 1889. Mistaken sense of "advocate, supporter" (1935) is from misreading of Greek protos as Latin pro- "for."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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protagonist in Culture
protagonist [(proh-tag-uh-nist)]

The principal character in a literary work. Hamlet, for example, is the protagonist of the play by William Shakespeare that bears his name.

The American Heritage® 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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