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[nar-uh-tiv] /ˈnær ə tɪv/
a story or account of events, experiences, or the like, whether true or fictitious.
a book, literary work, etc., containing such a story.
the art, technique, or process of narrating, or of telling a story:
Somerset Maugham was a master of narrative.
consisting of or being a narrative:
a narrative poem.
of or relating to narration, or the telling of a story:
My English teacher's narrative skill makes characters seem to come to life.
Fine Arts. representing stories or events pictorially or sculpturally:
narrative painting.
Compare anecdotal (def 2).
Origin of narrative
1555-65; < Latin narrātīvus suitable for narration. See narrate, -ive
Related forms
narratively, adverb
nonnarrative, adjective, noun
seminarrative, adjective
1. chronicle, tale. Narrative, account, recital, history are terms for a story of an event or events. Narrative is the general term (for a story long or short; of past, present, or future; factual or imagined; told for any purpose; and with or without much detail). The other three terms apply primarily to factual stories of time already past. An account is usually told informally, often for entertainment, with emphasis on details of action, whether about an incident or a series of happenings. A recital is an extended narrative usually with an informative purpose, emphasizing accuracy and exhaustive details of facts and figures. A history, usually written and at some length, is characterized by a tracing of causes and effects, and by an attempt to estimate, evaluate, and interpret facts. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for narrative
  • The media has always had an interest in shaping the story of the campaign to produce an interesting horse-race narrative.
  • He told me a story to help me match my narrative to that of graduate school.
  • The way you do that, the story or narrative you tell, is your worldview.
  • Experts differ on precisely what story is being told here, but the frieze was quite clearly carved as a continuous narrative.
  • Let the people who really know the story drive the narrative.
  • Like his writing, his paintings convey poetry, intellect and powerful narrative.
  • It's astonishing how captivating the narrative is.
  • At the same time it is distinctly enjoyable as a personal narrative.
  • Allow students to deliver the personal narrative orally.
  • The narrative seemed to pour out in a nonstop burst of barely controlled fury.
British Dictionary definitions for narrative


an account, report, or story, as of events, experiences, etc
the narrative, the part of a literary work that relates events
the process or technique of narrating
telling a story: a narrative poem
of or relating to narration: narrative art
Derived Forms
narratively, 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
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Word Origin and History for narrative

mid-15c., from Middle French narratif, from Late Latin narrativus "suited to narration," from Latin narrat-, stem of narrare (see narration).


"a tale, story," 1560s, from Middle French narrative and from narrative (adj.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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