pa·​rab·​o·​la pə-ˈra-bə-lə How to pronounce parabola (audio)
: a plane curve generated by a point moving so that its distance from a fixed point is equal to its distance from a fixed line : the intersection of a right circular cone with a plane parallel to an element of the cone
: something bowl-shaped (such as an antenna or microphone reflector)

Illustration of parabola

Illustration of parabola
  • F fixed point
  • CD fixed line
  • x moving point
  • AB axis
  • xy distance from x to CD
  • pp′ parabola

Examples of parabola in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Then as far as each individual variable is concerned, the polynomial encoding the message traces out a simple parabola. Michael Greshko, Quanta Magazine, 10 Jan. 2024 What’s more, with many variables there are many such parabolas, any of which can be used to correct errors. Michael Greshko, Quanta Magazine, 10 Jan. 2024 The open kitchen reflects the same color scheme — gray pans hang from a gray wall next to a dark gray refrigerator — while more desk lamps cast parabolas of light on the walls. Bill Wyman Anu Kumar, New York Times, 18 Oct. 2023 Consider the parabola defined by the equation f(x)=x2. Jordana Cepelewicz, Quanta Magazine, 21 Sep. 2023 The most important part of a parabola is the vertex — its highest or lowest point — and there are many mathematical techniques for finding it. Quanta Magazine, 23 Sep. 2021 Mobilizing his multi-professional background, Paika has become both more than a distributor of good advice and spiritual parabola, but an authority on a variety of topics close to his studies. Anto Dotcom, Rolling Stone, 26 July 2023 Every parabola has an axis of symmetry that splits the parabola into two mirror-image pieces. Patrick Honner, Quanta Magazine, 24 Mar. 2023 According to the company, the weightless flight works by performing aerobatic maneuvers known as parabolas. Stacey Leasca, Travel + Leisure, 19 Apr. 2023

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

Word History


borrowed from New Latin, borrowed from Greek parabolḗ "juxtaposition, placement of a figure in contact with another, parabola" — more at parable

First Known Use

1575, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of parabola was in 1575

Dictionary Entries Near parabola

Cite this Entry

“Parabola.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


pa·​rab·​o·​la pə-ˈrab-ə-lə How to pronounce parabola (audio)
: a curve formed by the intersection of a cone with a plane parallel to a straight line in its surface : a curve formed by a point moving so that its distance from a fixed point is equal to its distance from a fixed line
: something that is bowl-shaped

More from Merriam-Webster on parabola

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