1. Characteristic of or related to country or pastoral life
  2. Romantically peaceful or simple (in regards to or similar to country life); idyllic


  1. A short poem whose subject is country or pastoral life (often bucolics)


Unless you were born and raised among apartments and subways, city life can sometimes be a little overwhelming. The traffic, the perpetual noise and light, the crowds that are made of hundreds of faces yet impersonal all the sameā€¦it's enough to make a person long for the tranquility of life in the country. In contrast to urban life, we often picture bucolic settings as simple and fulfilling: you get up in the morning, you tend your animals, you tend your land, you eat dumplings for dinner and sit in a rocking chair, and then you go to bed. You work hard, sure, but you get to see the fruits of your labor multiply in proportion, and you get to do it all without the constant bother of street noise and strangers. Yep, just you, the shining sun, the humming insects, and your cows - definitely cows. Bucolic life always has cows.

Like the one described above, visions of country life are often a little idealized by those who aren't actually familiar with it. It's fitting, then, that the word bucolic is often purposefully used to describe something that's slightly unrealistic in its peace and simplicity. In its most literal sense, bucolic characterizes something as being related to rural life, especially to animal husbandry. Although frequently used to refer to a rustic way of life, the word can also describe a specific person or object that is in some way connected to the countryside. In this way, bucolic can aptly be applied to a person who was raised in and exhibits mannerisms commonly attributed to a provincial area, as well as to the area itself. A shepherd watching his flock graze in a grassy field, a milkmaid going to care for the family cow, and even the Sami people of Scandinavia, who raise herds of reindeer, are all bucolic by dint of their rustic lifestyles, surrounded by animals and disconnected from the bustle of metropolis.

But more figuratively, bucolic sometimes describes something that's characteristic of a specifically idealized rural setting. When applied in this way, bucolic refers to an idyllic simplicity often attributed to life in the country, a mindset where morals are straightforward and where a happy life is acquired by honest hard work. This usage of bucolic is common among those who are fed up with the stress of city life and are attempting to imagine a sort of utopia - after all, many actual pastoralists might chortle at the idea that their life is so nobly innocent. As wonderful as such a picture might be, this kind of bucolic description might be more appropriate for the farm of Old McDonald than for the reality of agrarian life.

As a noun, a bucolic (or, often, bucolics) refers to a short, sentimental poem that takes place in the midst of pastoral or country life. Some excellent examples of bucolics are Virgil's Eclogues.

Example: Sheila's bucolic lifestyle was evident from the strong smell of manure that hung about her like foul cloud.

Example: Happy childhood visits to my grandparents' farm would make me yearn for a more bucolic life.

Example: Enchanted by the country inn at which he was staying, Percy was inspired to write a bucolic about his experience.


Remember when we (somewhat hyperbolically) claimed that bucolic life always has cows? Well, it turns out that the origins of bucolic are fairly bovine-y, too. One of the word's earliest ancestors is the Greek boukolos, which refers to "a man who raises cows (or, theoretically, any herd of domestic animals)." Boukolos is a combination of bous, which means "cow" (told you), and -kolos, which refers to the act of raising or tending. The word took on an adjective form with the Greek boukolikos, which, like the modern bucolic, means "rustic" or "of the pastoral country." Latin would incorporate this meaning in the similar bucolicus, a term which formed the basis of the classic bucolic poems of such writers as Virgil and Horace. Bucolic has been in use in English since the 1610s, although an earlier (though no longer common) version, bucolical, had been recorded as early as the 1520s.

Derivative Words

Bucolical: Technically, bucolic is actually a derivative of bucolical, an adjective with the same meaning which first cropped up in English almost 100 years prior. Although the former is much more common these days, the two words can be used interchangeably (in the adjective form).

Example: As we drove down the country road with the windows down, we could hear a bucolical mooing in the air.

Bucolically: This adverb is used to describe an action as being in some way characteristic or reminiscent of simple, rural life.

Example: Watching the old man bucolically strumming his banjo reminded me of a simpler time.

In Literature

From Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five:

The sun had just gone down, and its afterglow was backlighting the city, which formed low cliffs around the bucolic void to the idle stockyards. The city was blacked out because bombers might come, so Billy didn't get to see Dresden do one of the most cheerful things a city is capable of doing when the sun goes down, which is to wink its lights on one by one.

Vonnegut uses bucolic to contrast the dense, highly developed city of Dresden with the surrounding countryside, which is evidently anything but developed. Of course, Vonnegut doesn't discuss rustic simplicity for long - his focus is on the soon-to-arrive bombers that instigate the novel's climax.


  • Bucolic is symbolic of rural life
  • BUcolic is full of MOOing


Poetry, Rural, Cows, Pastoral

Bring out the linguist in you! What is your own interpretation of bucolic. Did you use bucolic in a game? Provide an example sentence or a literary quote.