Iford Manor has been described as one of the most stunning concert venues in the West Country. Throughout high summer, Iford Arts stages an internationally renowned festival in a breathtakingly beautiful pastoral setting. Operatic performances are staged in-the-round in the intimate surroundings of the Italianate Cloister, which could not be more perfect in terms of scale and style. While the classical backdrop could hardly be more fitting, the real delight for our audiences is that, as the sky turns purple overhead, the first stars appear and the first heady notes resound across the countryside, no-one is seated less than twenty feet from the performers. The opportunity for a relaxing pre-show picnic in our tranquil gardens overlooking the meandering River Frome will complete an already magical experience.

I have found two meanings of this word, but it seems to me that neither of them fits.

1) Of or pertaining to shepherds; hence, relating to rural life and scenes; as, a pastoral life (Source: en.wiktionary.org)

(especially of land or a farm) used for or related to the keeping or grazing of sheep or cattle (Source: Google Translate)

2) Relating to the care of souls, or to the pastor of a church (Source: en.wiktionary.org)

(in the Christian Church) concerning or appropriate to the giving of spiritual guidance (Source: Google Translate)

Edit: if someone is able to answer this question, I would like to get a synonym for "pastoral". Thanks in advance.

  • How come you don't think the first one doesn't fit? ... breathtakingly rural ... means roughly the same, but pastoral doesn't have some of the negative connotations rural does. Commented Sep 4, 2015 at 18:09
  • If you need persuading of the meaning, have a look at this ---> goo.gl/esi5pU Commented Sep 4, 2015 at 19:23
  • 1
    Since you requested it, bucolic is a synonym for pastoral.
    – JLG
    Commented Sep 4, 2015 at 19:33

2 Answers 2


Pastoral is also a literary tradition of sentimentally idealizing a rustic, rural existence. (Its origins stretch all the way back to classical antiquity, the Idylls of Theocritus and the Eclogues of Virgil, but bits of it are found in As You Like It, Don Quixote, Milton’s “Lycidas,” and even—mockingly—in the Savoy Operas of Gilbert and Sullivan. Classical names go with the territory: shepherds named Strephon, Lycidas, Corin, Sylvius, etc., and shepherdesses Chloe, Phyllis, Amaryllis, etc. Dresden used rather to specialize in china figurines of these types.) So when an advertising brochure boasts “a breathtakingly beautiful pastoral setting,” it means that the setting is an instance of rural scenery that actually lives up to our fondest imaginings of green pastures, limpid streams, bosky hillsides, etc.

  • 1
    This is getting suspiciously close to lit crit. But I'm fond of the word, and this obviously beats the clinical old dictionaries. Commented Sep 4, 2015 at 18:44
  • In music the word becomes pastorale - e.g. Beethoven's third symphony.
    – WS2
    Commented Sep 4, 2015 at 21:42
  • @WS2, I think it's his 6th, in F, Op. 68; and I think the extra "e" shows up only when that piece is being named in German, French, or Italian. My Naxos CD, labeled in English, omits it. Commented Sep 5, 2015 at 22:45
  • @BrianDonovan Gosh. You are right - it is his sixth. Don't tell my wife I got it wrong - because we had it for our wedding 44 years ago - the organist was a friend of ours. As for pastorale, it is in the OED under that spelling, and denotes two uses in that form - one in music, and the other in dance.
    – WS2
    Commented Sep 5, 2015 at 23:29

Merriam-Webster's Eleventh Collegiate Dictionary (2003) includes this shepherd-free definition of pastoral:

pleasingly peaceful and innocent: IDYLLIC

And this one:

of or relating to the countryside : not urban

And here's the Eleventh Collegiate's relevant definition of idyllic:

pleasing or picturesque in natural simplicity

Another one-word adjective option (besides idyllic) is arcadian, which the Eleventh Collegiate defines as follows:

idyllically pastoral; esp : idyllically innocent, simple, or untroubled


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