rural, *rustic, pastoral, bucolic are comparable when they mean of or characteristic of the country as distinguished from city life.
Rural is the most comprehensive term; in its widest meaning it implies open country whether uninhabited or sparsely settled; more narrowly it suggests agricultural pursuits or simple community life. In distinction from rustic, however, rural suggests the pleasant aspects of country life; rustic commonly implies a contrast with the refinements of the city or the town and often connotes rudeness or lack of polish

he had no taste for rural loveliness, green fields and vineyards . . . but he would often have his tongue in his cheek at the simplicity of rustic dupes— Stevenson

Pastoral and bucolic derive some or most of their connotations from the literary treatment of rural life.
Pastoral, when it does not refer directly to the life of shepherds, suggests either green pastures and grazing sheep or a life primitive in its simplicity or idyllic in its peace and apartness from the world

to pastoral dales, thin-set with modest farms— Wordsworth


no more shall . . . Peace pipe on her pastoral hillock a languid note— Tennyson

Bucolic, a curiously dichot- omous word, may be a close synonym of pastoral in stressing the charm of rural environment and life

there is here a bucolic atmosphere of peculiar beauty and inspiration— Sacheverell Sitwell

or may come close to rustic in emphasizing the crudity and lack of refinement of rural life or people

to give up all the city's life ... for the bucolic tedium of a Pennsylvania farm—he couldn't do it— Wolfe


New Dictionary of Synonyms. 2014.

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