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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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 Civil rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton recounted the parable of the good Samaritan, as passersby ignored a wounded man on the road. NBC News, "A final farewell to George Floyd, whose death touched off national protests," 9 June 2020 Invoking a parable in which Jesus tells of a farmer who sows seed aimlessly, Cosby reminded worshippers that only the seeds sown on good soil bear fruit. Alfred Miller, The Courier-Journal, "Jesse Jackson reiterates call for Rand Paul to end opposition to anti-lynching bill," 7 June 2020 More than a century ago, the British writer E. M. Forster published a parable about the solitary endgame of technological progress. Laurence Scott, Wired, "Covid-19 and the New Intimacy," 1 June 2020 Therein lies the crux of Parasite as a parable on class struggle: There is no rich without poor, and no poor without rich. Anne Cohen,, "Parasite Is A Wild, Thrilling Film & Unlike Anything You’ve Ever Seen," 6 Feb. 2020 Silicon Valley has long lionized leadership in times of crisis, whether in the parable of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs after he was fired from his own company or in the famous pivots of the likes of YouTube and Twitter. Matt Vella, Quartz, "Big Tech has exactly one job to do in a pandemic," 26 Mar. 2020 Here in the high Alps, amid the private jets, the helicopters and the fine cuisine, this struck me as a pretty good parable for our times. Gerard Baker, WSJ, "For Liberal Elites at Davos, Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others," 24 Jan. 2020 Last Days of a Star, a parable about the eventual destruction of our sun due to unsustainable energy mining. Dan Thurot, Ars Technica, "Our favorite boardgames that model the natural world," 25 Apr. 2020 The third persona, the Blonde, is a symbol, the pure and virginal creature of fairy tales and religious parables. Elaine Showalter, The New Yorker, "Joyce Carol Oates’s “Blonde” Is the Definitive Study of American Celebrity," 13 Apr. 2020

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

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Last Updated

27 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Parable.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 11 Jul. 2020.

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How to pronounce parable (audio)

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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Britannica English: Translation of parable for Arabic Speakers

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