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

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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The political crisis of the First World War brings with it a parallel aesthetic crisis, which leads to another breakthrough. Alex Ross, The New Yorker, 17 Jan. 2022 This offers more than 1,000 additional CUDA cores (parallel processors) than the existing RTX 3080 laptop GPU, and 16GB of graphics memory, but a lower boost clock speed. Michael J. Miller, PCMAG, 14 Jan. 2022 Shift your weight to your right leg, and while keeping a slight bend in your right knee, raise your left leg straight behind your body, hinging at the hips to bring your torso parallel to the floor, and lower the weight toward the floor. Nicole Clancy, SELF, 11 Jan. 2022 The Trump Organization sought to vacate the subpoenas, arguing they were improperly issued while the Manhattan District Attorney's office, with assistance from James' office, conducts a parallel criminal investigation. Aaron Katersky, ABC News, 11 Jan. 2022 In a parallel development, the number of House members who win districts that vote for the other party's presidential candidates has dwindled. Ronald Brownstein, CNN, 11 Jan. 2022 Both are expected to fall well short of that mark due to opposition from GOP lawmakers, prompting a parallel effort by Democrats to change the filibuster procedure to ease their passage. Alex Leary, WSJ, 11 Jan. 2022 Kummer, a Swiss snowboarder who won gold in the parallel giant slalom at the 2014 Sochi Games, is scheduled to arrive this week., 11 Jan. 2022 But at the same time a parallel change has been taking place among conservative intellectuals. Damon Linker, The Week, 11 Jan. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun According to the study, the MTS alignment also proposes a station at each airport terminal running parallel with Harbor Drive. Lauryn Schroeder, San Diego Union-Tribune, 17 Dec. 2021 California’s most adventurous wolf was found dead on the afternoon of Nov. 10 by a truck driver who noticed the carcass on a dirt trail near a frontage road running parallel to Interstate 5, officials said. Los Angeles Times, 25 Nov. 2021 The criminal complaint filed Tuesday against Robert Durst was done parallel to the grand jury proceedings, which could continue for several more weeks. Time, 22 Oct. 2021 The most vibrant pieces are by Mark Dagley, whose brightly colored, methodically deployed triangles and diamonds are disrupted by cutout sections or by being placed parallel to the floor. Washington Post, 22 Oct. 2021 The supply-chain crisis, Mr. Levy contends, has no parallel in history. Tunku Varadarajan, WSJ, 17 Dec. 2021 Individuals and groups are constrained by law in ways that have no parallel in other democracies. Rachel Donadio, The Atlantic, 22 Nov. 2021 Bell says Rhode Island’s supernatural history had a parallel with the consumption epidemic — known today as tuberculosis — that makes infected patients become weak and pale., 26 Oct. 2021 Among all age groups, there have been 226 million administrations of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination in the U.S. since December, an astonishing mass rollout of vaccinations in a short time that has no parallel in U.S. history. Los Angeles Times, 1 Oct. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The ceding of whole neighborhoods and cities to parallel Islamic education, justice and moral systems. Cnaan Liphshiz,, 28 Oct. 2020 But the experience of those working remotely for their first job might not parallel her success. Nicholas Wyman, Forbes, 3 Jan. 2022 The two-hour Army Combat Fitness Test 3.0 (ACFT) evaluates movements that better parallel the demands of on-the-ground combat, including rescuing injured personnel and loading equipment, according to Lt. Col. Gabriel Ramirez, an Army spokesman. NBC News, 3 Dec. 2021 Those shifts parallel a rebound in vaccinations, with the share of adults with at least one coronavirus shot rising from 67 percent on in early July to 75 percent as of Saturday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention., 5 Sep. 2021 The dynamics of this process, the researchers contend, parallel precisely the attention a society devotes to its most memorable events (whether the Watson–Crick paper on the structure of DNA or Michael Jackson’s Thriller video). Gary Stix, Scientific American, 13 Dec. 2018 Gruden's email trail begins in 2011 and goes to 2018, and his outbursts parallel a yellow brick road of white grievance during that time span. Mike Freeman, USA TODAY, 13 Oct. 2021 In contrast, a benefit of being part of a team is that team members can do parallel processing to work on different parts of a problem by dividing and conquering. Duncan Watts, Quartz, 21 Oct. 2021 Yet the 3 Rs framework allows for experiments that parallel those performed by Descartes—if the cruel character of the research can be justified in the name of science. Hope Ferdowsian, Scientific American, 16 Sep. 2021 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., 23 Sep. 2019 Let your upper arm go parallel to the ground before returning to the starting position. Ajc Homepage, ajc, 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,, 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.

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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

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Time Traveler for parallel

Time Traveler

The first known use of parallel was circa 1550

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Dictionary Entries Near parallel



parallel axiom

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Statistics for parallel

Last Updated

19 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Parallel.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Jan. 2022.

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More Definitions for parallel



English Language Learners Definition of parallel

 (Entry 1 of 3)

: very similar and often happening at the same time
: 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

More from Merriam-Webster on parallel

Nglish: Translation of parallel for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of parallel for Arabic Speakers


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