What Is a Protagonist? | Definition & Examples
Protagonist is a noun meaning “principal character in a fictional work.” It can also be used more broadly to refer to the main participants in a real-life event. And it can be used to refer to the leader of a cause or a supporter of an idea, though this meaning is less common.
The word “protagonist” comes from an ancient Greek term for an actor who plays the main role in a drama. In fiction, a protagonist is traditionally a heroic figure, opposed by a hostile antagonist.
Protagonist vs. antagonist
The word protagonist comes from an ancient Greek term for an actor who plays the main role in a drama. In fiction, a protagonist is traditionally a heroic figure, opposed by a hostile antagonist.
While the word “antagonist” is typically negative when used to refer to a fictional character (generally the villain of the story), the word can also be used more generally to mean “opponent” or “adversary.” In a dispute between two or more people or groups, both (or all) sides can be described as antagonists.
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If you want to know more about commonly confused words, definitions, and differences between US and UK spellings, make sure to check out some of our other language articles with explanations, examples, and quizzes.
US vs. UK spellings
Frequently asked questions
- What is a synonym of “protagonist”?
There are numerous synonyms for the various meanings of protagonist.
Main character in a story Main participant in an event Leader or supporter of a cause Central figure Actor Advocate Hero(ine) Key figure Champion Lead(ing) character Main figure Exponent Main character Principal player Promoter Proponent Supporter Upholder
- What is the opposite of “protagonist”?
In fiction, the opposite of a protagonist is an antagonist, meaning someone who opposes the protagonist.
More generally, some antonyms for “protagonist” include:
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