par·​al·​lel | \ ˈper-ə-ˌlel How to pronounce parallel (audio) , ˈpa-rə-, -ləl \

Definition of parallel

 (Entry 1 of 4)

1a : extending in the same direction, everywhere equidistant (see equidistant sense 1), and not meeting parallel rows of trees
b : everywhere equally distant concentric spheres are parallel
2a : having parallel sides a parallel reamer
b : being or relating to an electrical circuit having a number of conductors (see conductor sense d(1)) in parallel (see parallel entry 2 sense 4b)
c : arranged in parallel a computer with four parallel processors
d : relating to or being a connection in a computer system in which the bits of a byte are transmitted over separate channels at the same time a parallel port — compare serial
3a : similar, analogous, or interdependent in tendency or development : exhibiting parallelism in form, function, or development … the standing committee systems in the two Houses are reasonably parallel— Harold Zink parallel strikes on the railroads, in the gas and electricity services and in the metal and mining industries.— Percy Winner — see also parallel evolution
b : readily compared : companion the marriage rate turned upward … the birth rate entered upon a parallel climb— Oscar Handlin
c : having identical syntactical elements in corresponding positions also : being such an element
d(1) : having the same tonic used of major and minor keys and scales
(2) : keeping the same distance apart in musical pitch (see pitch entry 4 sense 4b(1))
4 : performed while keeping one's skis parallel parallel turns



Definition of parallel (Entry 2 of 4)

1a : a parallel line, curve, or surface
b : one of the imaginary circles on the surface of the earth paralleling the equator and marking the latitude also : the corresponding line on a globe or map — see latitude illustration
c : a character ∥ used in printing especially as a reference mark
2a : something equal or similar in all essential particulars : counterpart
3 : a comparison to show resemblance
4a : the state of being physically parallel
b : an arrangement of electrical devices in a circuit in which the same potential difference is applied to two or more resistances with each resistance being on a different branch of the circuit — compare series
c : an arrangement or state that permits several operations or tasks to be performed simultaneously rather than consecutively
in parallel
: in a parallel arrangement


paralleled; paralleling; parallels

Definition of parallel (Entry 3 of 4)

transitive verb

1 : to indicate analogy of : compare
2a : to show something equal to : match
b : to correspond to
3 : to place so as to be parallel in direction with something
4 : to extend, run, or move in a direction parallel to



Definition of parallel (Entry 4 of 4)

: in a parallel manner

Keep scrolling for more

Choose the Right Synonym for parallel


similar, analogous, parallel mean closely resembling each other. similar implies the possibility of being mistaken for each other. all the houses in the development are similar analogous applies to things belonging in essentially different categories but nevertheless having many similarities. analogous political systems parallel suggests a marked likeness in the development of two things. the parallel careers of two movie stars

Examples of parallel in a Sentence

Adjective the parallel careers of the two movie stars These two sentences are parallel in structure. Notice the parallel development of the two technologies. Noun These myths have some striking parallels with myths found in cultures around the world. There are many parallels between the stories. Most of the United States is south of the 49th parallel. Verb Their test results parallel our own. Rising prices parallel increasing fuel costs. Spending is paralleled by an increase in the number of loans given. The highway parallels the river.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective He was possessed for a while by Dreamslayer, a supervillain from a parallel Earth, and Kilg%re again. Tribune News Service, cleveland, "Captain Comics: The stories behind ‘Wonder Woman 1984’," 2 Jan. 2021 James Eads had a better solution to the silting problem: constructing parallel jetties at South Pass to constrain the water flow, increase its velocity, and scour out the sediment. Richard Campanella,, "acquisition of 1,100 acres," 1 Jan. 2021 The transactional corruption unit works closely with foreign governments and prosecutors, often running parallel investigations, Mr. Simpson said. Mengqi Sun, WSJ, "FBI Increasingly Probes for Corruption Overseas," 31 Dec. 2020 Sabrina’s Baxter High friends — Harvey (Ross Lynch), Roz (Jaz Sinclair) and Theo (Lachlan Watson) — exist in the alternate cosmos too, though Harvey is dating Sabrina instead of Roz, his girlfriend in parallel Greendale. Christi Carras,, "How Netflix brought back two ’90s stars for a quirky, nostalgic ‘Sabrina’ crossover," 31 Dec. 2020 Following a spectacular touchdown against South Carolina last season, Alabama running back Najee Harris ran to the back of the end zone, straightened his posture with his left arm outstretched parallel to the ground and his right arm in the air. Chris Bumbaca, USA TODAY, "Alabama RB Najee Harris on why Megan Rapinoe inspires him: 'Standing up for what she believes in'," 31 Dec. 2020 Unlike the ISPs of the 1990s, the social media platforms of the last 20 years are primarily electronic publishers—perfectly parallel to print publishers and broadcasters. Jeff Bewkes, Fortune, "Now is not the time to repeal Section 230, but it should be soon," 30 Dec. 2020 To make all the story lines work, DC Films will introduce movie audiences to a comics concept known as the multiverse: parallel worlds where different versions of the same character exist simultaneously. New York Times, "Managing Movie Superheroes Is About to Get a Lot More Complicated," 27 Dec. 2020 Spread out the hide, flesh-side up, and with your knife, slice holes parallel to the edge of the hide. Tim Macwelch, Outdoor Life, "The Ultimate Guide to Tanning Wild Game Pelts and Hides," 24 Dec. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Have intentional solo date nights—aka dedicated you time—in parallel. Stefanie Groner, Glamour, "17 At Home Date Ideas to Get You Out of Your Netflix Rut," 24 Dec. 2020 Meanwhile, companies compressed the process of vaccine development by running what would normally be sequential steps in parallel, while still checking for safety and efficacy. Ed Yong, The Atlantic, "How Science Beat the Virus," 17 Dec. 2020 Bend right knee to 90 degrees, thigh parallel to floor. Mallory Creveling,, "This Yoga Flow Can Help Ease Stress and Anxiety," 15 Dec. 2020 In parallel, scientists had been developing ways to encapsulate and transport large and unwieldy molecules beginning in the 1960s. Carolyn Y. Johnson, Anchorage Daily News, "A gamble pays off in ‘spectacular success’: How the leading coronavirus vaccines made it to the finish line," 6 Dec. 2020 Our teams are all working in parallel on the different parts of the application, manufacturing, the quality issues, the safety issues and the efficacy review. Lisa Schencker,, "’We are taking the time that we need’: FDA head defends COVID-19 vaccine approval process," 3 Dec. 2020 The lyrics present an especially interesting parallel to Diana's royal troubles and affairs. Caroline Picard, Good Housekeeping, "The True Story Behind That 'Crown' Scene of Princess Diana Dancing to Billy Joel's "Uptown Girl"," 29 Nov. 2020 Removing these senior officials — in effect decapitating the nation’s national security bureaucracy — would be without parallel by an outgoing president who has just lost re-election. Maggie Haberman, New York Times, "Trump Fires Mark Esper, Defense Secretary Who Opposed Use of Troops on U.S. Streets," 9 Nov. 2020 Christopher in Nigeria saw a parallel with his own country, and a warning for Americans. Stephen Collinson And Caitlin Hu, CNN, "'A plea to American voters' -- messages from around the world on Election Day," 3 Nov. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb It is expected to parallel, in part, construction of a $12 million sister park known as Sweetwater Park. Jennifer Van Grove, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Harbor Park, a $47.5M coastal attraction in Chula Vista, OK’d by port," 9 Dec. 2020 Beaver Island has about 100 miles of road, with awesome coastal dirt paths that parallel the sunrise or sunset. Austin Irwin, Car and Driver, "2020 in Review: Behold the Many Wonders of Michigan," 19 Dec. 2020 But what really stands out in this virtual production is the way DeLappe had already shaped the audience’s experience to parallel the girls’. New York Times, "How ‘Wolves’ and ‘Heroes’ Are Saving Pandemic Theater," 6 Dec. 2020 Her journey seems to parallel Harper’s coming out in a way — Jane’s arc is about asserting herself as the family weirdo. Anne Cohen,, "The Breakout Star Of Happiest Season On That Wild Christmas Eve Scene," 26 Nov. 2020 For Our Lives will visit nine states starting Monday, including Arizona, Colorado, Michigan, Texas, and Georgia, creating art exhibitions that will parallel digital rallies all aimed at capturing the youth vote., "Conway to leave White House, cites desire to focus on family," 23 Aug. 2020 Watching the Dolphins’ offensive guards attempt to turn the corner on pulling plays is like watching someone try to parallel park a Hummer. Omar Kelly,, "Kelly: Are the Dolphins pretenders, or playoff contenders? | Commentary," 24 Nov. 2020 These may include tremor, seizures, blindness, deafness, pain, paralysis and coma and can parallel those of almost any neurological disease. Diana Kwon, Scientific American, "Decoding a Disorder at the Interface of Mind and Brain," 1 Nov. 2020 On Monday, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced a series of public health orders that parallel the rules put in place by Whitmer to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. Julie Hinds, Detroit Free Press, "What to expect when movie theaters reopen in metro Detroit after seven months of shutdown," 9 Oct. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb And while his career wouldn't quite live up to its early promise, if Saka's goes on to run parallel then few at the Emirates will be complaining., "Arsenal's 10 Youngest Premier League Players & What Happened to Them Next," 23 Sep. 2019 Let your upper arm go parallel to the ground before returning to the starting position. Ajc Homepage, ajc, "Try these 5 workouts for a better bust line," 16 Aug. 2017 Power generated at the San Vicente facility could be delivered via electrical lines parallel and interconnected to San Diego Gas & Electric’s Sunrise Power Link. Rob Nikolewski,, "Pump it up: Water officials looking for offers to build a hydro storage plant at the San Vicente Reservoir," 31 July 2017

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

See More

First Known Use of parallel


circa 1550, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1551, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


circa 1594, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1646, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for parallel

Adjective, Noun, Verb, and Adverb

Latin parallelus, from Greek parallēlos, from para beside + allēlōn of one another, from allos … allos one … another, from allos other — more at else

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about parallel

Time Traveler for parallel

Time Traveler

The first known use of parallel was circa 1550

See more words from the same year

Statistics for parallel

Last Updated

6 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Parallel.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Jan. 2021.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for parallel


How to pronounce parallel (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of parallel

 (Entry 1 of 3)

: very similar and often happening at the same time
computers : designed for a computer system in which very small pieces of information are sent over separate wires at the same time



English Language Learners Definition of parallel (Entry 2 of 3)

: a way in which things are similar : a shared quality or characteristic
: something that is equal or similar
: any one of the imaginary circles on the surface of the Earth that are parallel to the equator and that are shown as lines on maps



English Language Learners Definition of parallel (Entry 3 of 3)

: to be similar or equal to (something)
: to happen at the same time as (something) and in a way that is related or connected
: to be parallel to (something) : to go or extend in the same direction as (something)


par·​al·​lel | \ ˈper-ə-ˌlel How to pronounce parallel (audio) \

Kids Definition of parallel

 (Entry 1 of 3)

: lying or moving in the same direction but always the same distance apart parallel lines Train tracks are parallel.



Kids Definition of parallel (Entry 2 of 3)

1 : a line or surface that lies at or moves in the same direction as another but is always the same distance from it
2 : one of the imaginary circles on the earth's surface running in the same direction as the equator and marking latitude
3 : a way in which things are similar The parallel between their lives is obvious.
4 : equal entry 3 It is a masterpiece without parallel.


paralleled; paralleling

Kids Definition of parallel (Entry 3 of 3)

1 : to move, run, or extend in the same direction with but always at the same distance from A road parallels the river.
2 : to be similar or equal to

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on parallel

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


Test Your Vocabulary

Words of Snow and Ice Quiz

  • image1037863653
  • Which of the following refers to thin, bending ice, or to the act of running over such ice?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.


Anagram puzzles meet word search.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!