What can I call a publication that is very well-known in its genre, that set the tone thenceforth for what that genre should look like? To the extent that it is known by everyone who takes an interest in the topic, and referenced.

I would like something more specific than "key", "archetypal", "defining", "characteristic"

  • Are you looking for an adjective? Can you add a fill-in-the-blank ____ example sentence that shows how you will use this word? Apr 29 at 4:00
  • Why isn't archetypal good enough? Do you want a word specifically for a publication or literary work or art work?
    – Stuart F
    Apr 29 at 10:42

5 Answers 5


Try exemplar or paragon.


  1. One that is worthy of imitation; a perfect example or model


  1. A model of excellence or perfection of a kind; a peerless example: a paragon of virtue.

TFD Online

  • 2
    What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? man delights not me; no, nor woman neither.
    – tchrist
    Apr 29 at 2:37
  • @tchrist Word, Swords: words.
    – livresque
    Apr 29 at 3:50

You could call it seminal, defined in this sense by Cambridge as:

(formal) containing important new ideas and having a great influence on later work

  • Yes, this is pretty perfectly the correct meaning. I had just used seminal though. Apr 29 at 15:45

Paradigmatic is a possible candidate. The word is formal in tone.

According to Collins Dictionary, it means:

You can describe something as paradigmatic if it acts as a model or example for something.

Their great academic success was paraded as paradigmatic.


Something that is an ideal example of its class is quintessential:


perfectly typical or representative of a particular kind of person or thing



I would use classic, which can be used as a noun or as an adjective:

serving as a standard of excellence : of recognized value

  • classic literary works (M-W)

having a high quality or standard against which other things are judged:

  • Fielding's classic novel "Tom Jones" (Cambridge)

However, if the stress is more on setting the tone thenceforth for what that genre should look like, then prototype may be more accurate:

the first example of something, such as a machine or other industrial product, from which all later forms are developed (Cambridge)

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