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

Did you know?

Parable comes from the Latin word parabola, from Greek parabolḗ, meaning "comparison." The word parabola may look familiar if you remember your geometry. The mathematical parabola refers to a curve that is shaped like the path of something that is thrown forward and high in the air and falls back to the ground.

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 Some of the paintings are large, and even the smaller ones amplify simple stalks and roots into parables of ecological peril and promise. Mark Jenkins, Washington Post, 10 Nov. 2023 Michael, who died four years ago at age 77, was known for his commanding courtroom presence and ability to turn cases into parables about right and wrong that could persuade even deeply skeptical judges and juries. Michael Steinberger, New York Times, 29 Sep. 2023 O’Connor, who won the National Book Award in 1972 and was put on a U.S. postage stamp in 2015, has been credited with writing tart, anti-racist parables along with deep explorations of her Catholic faith. Rebecca Keegan, The Hollywood Reporter, 3 Sep. 2023 But beyond the characters, the show has done a great job taking the series back to its episodic filler TV format, with moral parables or entertaining jaunts that tie up (mostly) neatly at the end, while also setting up continuity that the show reliably comes back to later. Wes Davis, The Verge, 22 July 2023 The narrative puts a 2020s spin on the age-old parable of the promising child actor who goes off the rails later in life. Chris Gardner, The Hollywood Reporter, 22 June 2023 Baldwin spoke after Brando, extemporaneously and in parables about Black Sambo and Detroit’s relationship to Saigon and integration in the South. Harmony Holiday, Los Angeles Times, 30 May 2023 Some of our most internalized parables of American motive, American character, are soothing misdirections. Jonathan Dee, Harper's Magazine, 11 May 2022 But some of the doomed efforts, most famously the Franklin Expedition, have become parables of colonial cluelessness: European explorers who died of scurvy by rejecting the Inuit’s vitamin-rich diet of raw meat or after ignoring the Inuit and getting lost. Norimitsu Onishi Nasuna Stuart-Ulin, New York Times, 4 June 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'parable.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined above

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


Dictionary Entries Near parable

Cite this Entry

“Parable.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition


par·​a·​ble ˈpar-ə-bəl How to pronounce parable (audio)
: a short simple story illustrating a moral or spiritual truth

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