par·​a·​bol·​ic ˌper-ə-ˈbä-lik How to pronounce parabolic (audio)
: expressed by or being a parable : allegorical
: of, having the form of, or relating to a parabola
motion in a parabolic curve
parabolically adverb

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The two distinct meanings of parabolic trace back to the development of Late Latin and New Latin. Late Latin is the Latin language used by writers in the third to sixth centuries. In that language, the word for "parable" was parabola—hence, the "parable" sense of parabolic. New Latin refers to the Latin used since the end of the medieval period, especially in regard to scientific description and classification. In New Latin, parabola names the same geometrical curve as it does in English. Both meanings of parabola were drawn from the Greek word for "comparison": parabolē.

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web The film adopts a somewhat more grownup, realistic, less parabolic tenor, though its ecology-minded narrative remains a bit sketchy for feature treatment — resulting in a pleasant, very handsome-looking movie rather short on dramatic impact. Dennis Harvey, Variety, 21 Jan. 2023 Some of its most defining features include soaring 30-foot windows, a large spiral staircase that connects the living area to the bedrooms and, of course, its sweeping, parabolic roof. Abby Montanez, Robb Report, 19 Jan. 2023 After that parabolic maneuver, Orion resumed its descent, with its guidance system pointing it straight for the waters off Baja California. Jeffrey Kluger, Time, 11 Dec. 2022 However, more recent experiments suggest that there are strict conditions for inducing emesis in amphibians exposed to parabolic flight and that amphibians are not as sensitive to this stimulus as mammals. Ncbi Rofl, Discover Magazine, 11 Jan. 2011 The skip entry’s gentle parabolic flight will reduce the g-forces for future astronauts to just 4. Jeffrey Kluger, Time, 11 Dec. 2022 That mania triggered parabolic stock rallies despite gamers opting to download new titles instead of visiting stores, with the retailer saddled with more than $1 billion in debt and lease liabilities at one point. Scott Deveau, Fortune, 22 Nov. 2022 And yet, above all, his is a towering, parabolic story of resilience. Time, 29 Oct. 2022 The doll has been a regular on the parabolic flights that astronauts use to experience weightlessness. Jamie Carter, Forbes, 25 Aug. 2022 See More

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

Word History


(sense 1) Middle English parabolik, borrowed from Late Latin parabolicus, borrowed from Greek parabolikós "figurative," from parabolḗ "comparison, parable" + -ikos -ic entry 1; (sense 2) borrowed from New Latin parabolicus, from parabola parabola + -icus -ic entry 1

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of parabolic was in the 15th century


Dictionary Entries Near parabolic

Cite this Entry

“Parabolic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Jan. 2023.

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