par·​a·​ble | \ˈper-ə-bəl, 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


allegory, apologue, fable

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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

Journalist John Carreyou's account of how Elizabeth Holmes seduced everyone from Carlos Slim to Betsy DeVos with her too-good-to-be-true technology is a telling parable of Silicon Valley magical thinking. Vogue, "The 17 Best Books to Pack for Your Summer Vacation," 8 Aug. 2018 Sam Mendes directs Simon Russell Beale in the English-language premiere of an epic parable about Wall Street's souring of the American Dream. Demetrios Matheou, The Hollywood Reporter, "'The Lehman Trilogy': Theater Review," 13 July 2018 These quirky personal comics are often enigmatic, reading like parables written in an alien tongue. Jeet Heer, The New Republic, "Steve Ditko, the co-creator of Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, is dead.," 7 July 2018 Set in a wide array of times and places, Schwob’s stories have the mythic quality of parables, but rendered in sensuous, often grotesque detail. Martin Riker, WSJ, "Books Born of Books," 22 June 2018 The absurdist parable set is in a dystopian alternate timeline and world that look and feel very much like ours, but slightly off. Katie Walsh, kansascity, "‘Sorry to Bother You’ skewers corporate and cultural corruption," 12 July 2018 Conversely, numerous proverbs and parables bear witness to the wisdom of generosity, compassion, and gratitude. Jonathan L. Walton, Time, "Why Authoritarians Love to Quote This Bible Passage," 22 June 2018 USA TODAY Sports Mikal Bridges brings a parable to Thursday’s NBA Draft. Jeff Zillgitt, USA TODAY, "Villanova's Mikal Bridges is the rare four-year player destined to be an NBA lottery pick," 15 June 2018 As usual, Case is not only the singer, but a multi-instrumentalist and producer who treats songs as myths and parables. Greg Kot,, "Neko Case stomps the terra with the powerful ‘Hell-On’," 1 June 2018

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, from Anglo-French, from Late Latin parabola, from Greek parabolē comparison, from paraballein to compare, from para- + ballein to throw — more at devil

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Statistics for parable

Last Updated

13 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for parable

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

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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 \

Kids Definition of parable

: a simple story that teaches a moral lesson

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full of whispering sounds

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