par·​a·​ble | \ ˈper-ə-bəl How to pronounce parable (audio) , ˈpa-rə- \

Definition of parable

: a usually short fictitious story that illustrates a moral attitude or a religious principle the Biblical parable of the Good Samaritan also : something (such as a news story or a series of real events) likened to a parable in providing an instructive example or lesson In some ways, his life is a parable of the corrupting effect of great wealth, for he always assumed that everyone was after his money and out to cheat him. — Gavin Stamp By the summer of 2014, 380 House members and 74 senators had signed on as sponsors …. The ABLE Act had become a force. Yet in a parable of how Washington works, the bill still had a long way to go. — Gail Russell Chaddock

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Synonyms for parable


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Did You Know?

Parable comes to us via Anglo-French from the Late Latin word parabola, which in turn comes from Greek parabolē, meaning "comparison." The word parabola may look familiar if you remember your geometry. The mathematical "parabola" refers to a kind of comparison between a fixed point and a straight line, resulting in a parabolic curve; it came to English from New Latin (Latin as used since the end of the medieval period, especially in scientific description and classification). "Parable," however, descends from Late Latin (the Latin language used by writers in the 3rd to 6th centuries). The Late Latin term parabola referred to verbal comparisons: it essentially meant "allegory" or "speech." Other English descendants of Late Latin parabola are "parole" and "palaver."

Examples of parable in a Sentence

He told the children a parable about the importance of forgiveness. the parable of the Good Samaritan
Recent Examples on the Web Or her banging a spoon against a pot to re-enact both her mother’s futile attempts to awaken her dead father and an element of an ancient Chinese parable. Larry Blumenfeld, WSJ, 27 Apr. 2021 The parable of the prodigal son, in particular, is cleverly staged and emotionally real. Matthew J. Palm,, 24 Apr. 2021 Here is a parable for our time: There once was an adult who wanted to encourage eighth graders to eat healthier food. Lydia Denworth, Scientific American, 28 Apr. 2021 Jones turns to the Bible parable of Cain, who killed his brother Able out of jealousy. Saphara Harrell, oregonlive, 18 Apr. 2021 As in the parable of Jesus and the mustard seed, those books—the classics—helped seed the fertile field for storytelling in every form, including video games. Cindy Frenkel, Wired, 25 Feb. 2021 Stuck since Tuesday, the container ship has become a parable of the risks of megaships. David Clark Scott, The Christian Science Monitor, 29 Mar. 2021 There would be more to this parable, which my three older brothers also grew up hearing. Kurt Streeter, New York Times, 23 Mar. 2021 Like many horror movies (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) and action films (Return of the Jedi) at that time, Aliens was a parable for the Vietnam War, with big-tech Americans getting defeated by low-tech forces engaged in guerilla warfare. Scott Mendelson, Forbes, 17 Mar. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'parable.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of parable

14th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for parable

Middle English parable, parabol "allegorical narrative, proverb, speech," borrowed from Anglo-French parable, going back to Late Latin parabola "comparison, allegory, proverb, discourse, speech," going back to Latin, "explanatory illustration, comparison," borrowed from Greek parabolḗ "juxtaposition, comparison," "proverb" (Septuagint), "parable" (New Testament), from parabol-, stem in noun derivation of parabállein "to cast before (as fodder for a horse), expose, set beside, compare," from para- para- entry 1 + bállein "to reach by throwing, let fly, strike, put, place" — more at devil entry 1

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Time Traveler for parable

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The first known use of parable was in the 14th century

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Last Updated

23 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Parable.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 Jun. 2021.

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More Definitions for parable



English Language Learners Definition of parable

: a short story that teaches a moral or spiritual lesson especially : one of the stories told by Jesus Christ and recorded in the Bible


par·​a·​ble | \ ˈper-ə-bəl How to pronounce parable (audio) \

Kids Definition of parable

: a simple story that teaches a moral lesson


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