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, 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

In the parable, two men walking along the road encounter a half-frozen snake. Glenn Garvin, miamiherald, "Nicaraguan cardinal was symbol of political resistance," 3 June 2018 Set to a score by Prokofiev, the dramatic story ballet is based on a biblical parable of sin and redemption and was one of Balanchine’s first works to garner international acclaim. Karen Campbell,, "Boston Ballet’s John Lam is set to soar in dances from Balanchine to Bournonville," 10 May 2018 But these are not simply—or only—family dramas; O’Connor turns each narrative into a simultaneously rollicking and searing parable about salvation, redemption, the power of grace and the mysterious workings of God. Francine Prose, WSJ, "Five Best: Francine Prose on Family Troubles," 12 July 2018 Directed with admirable clarity by Carl Cofield at the Richard Rodgers Amphitheater in Marcus Garvey Park, where tickets are free, this is ancient Greek tragedy as contemporary parable. Laura Collins-hughes, New York Times, "Review: ‘Antigone’ Asserts Whose Lives Matter, With Modern Relevance," 9 July 2018 The anecdote carries the weight of a parable for an actor, who early on was underestimated by some. Jeffrey Fleishman,, "Mary Steenburgen knows how to coax a laugh but is equally at home with the dark side," 11 May 2018 Residents have fallen onto one side or another of a familiar dividing line, turning the city into parable of our time: an example of what happens when the din and discord of national politics comes home to roost. Jessica Mendoza, The Christian Science Monitor, "In Red Hen aftermath, a community wades through nation's vitriol," 29 June 2018 Kurtz-Phelan’s detailed account of the diplomatic mission’s failure reads like a parable of America’s evangelizing idealism and paternalistic hubris. George Packer, The New Yorker, "Briefly Noted," 16 June 2018 There are all kinds of parables about nature fighting back against evil, but nothing has ever been so explicit as House Speaker Paul Ryan’s recent saga with woodchucks (alias groundhog). Caitlin Wolper, Teen Vogue, "House Speaker Paul Ryan Says Woodchucks Destroyed His Car," 13 July 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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Last Updated

16 Oct 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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Comments on parable

What made you want to look up parable? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


one that holds something together

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