Words: protagonist n.

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The Independent Culture
AS ANY student of Greek drama will know, a protagonist (from prvto. "first" + 'agvnisth. "an actor") means the main character in a play. Roles of secondary and tertiary importance may be taken by the deuteragonist and tritagonist if necessary.

The phrases "chief protagonist" and "main protagonist" are tautological yet, of the 4,908 protagonists on our newspaper database, 419 are qualified as "chief" or "main".

Errors arise from both ends of this word. The proto- at the start is mistaken for the Latin pro- and the word is used incorrectly to mean a supporter or proponent; while the tail encourages its use as a synonym for antagonist.

Chambers 20th Century Dictionary calls such usage "non-standard". We purists call it "wrong".

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