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

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web That optimism took the form of Mountcastle gazing upward, following the soaring parabola of a ball headed over the left field fence at Oriole Park before beginning the first of two home run trots Saturday night. Andy Kostka, Baltimore Sun, 3 Sep. 2022 Walter Abish, a widely admired if not widely read American author of experimental fiction whose early life drew a parabola of hasty escapes from hostile forces in Nazi-era Austria and revolutionary China, died on Saturday in Manhattan. New York Times, 31 May 2022 This was known as the Kuznets curve, a parabola that showed inequality soaring before being slowly brought back to Earth through redistribution. New York Times, 7 Apr. 2022 This would make the y-position vs. time graph a parabola instead of a straight line. Rhett Allain, Wired, 26 Nov. 2021 The temperature therefore looks like a three-dimensional parabola, a shape called a paraboloid. Quanta Magazine, 6 Oct. 2021 The jump arc follows a path similar to a parabola, which is a symmetrical curve that looks like an upside-down U. Allison Goldstein, Popular Mechanics, 4 Feb. 2022 But what happened on his first parabola was unexpected. Washington Post, 28 Oct. 2021 For the first parabola, Nosacek and the others experienced Martian gravity — about one-third that of Earth. Chelsey Lewis, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 16 July 2021 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'parabola.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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 26 Nov. 2022.

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

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