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(1) : similar, analogous, or interdependent in tendency or development
(2) : exhibiting parallelism in form, function, or development 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

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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 Ideally it would be set back and parallel to Broadway, but this was ruled out because of the substation’s view-blocking girth. John King,, "Oakland’s new housing towers: So-so on the skyline, but one soars on the street," 6 Jan. 2020 Also, the manual says administrative investigations are presumed to run parallel to criminal investigations in cases that do not involve allegations of criminal use of force, the motion says. Eric Heisig, cleveland, "Federal monitor signs off on new Cleveland police Internal Affairs policies," 5 Nov. 2019 Then in 1908, the Indianapolis Southern Railroad laid tracks running parallel with SR 135. Elizabeth Depompei, Indianapolis Star, "How Bargersville hopes to keep its charm amid record growth and I-69 extension," 18 Dec. 2019 The hack works like this: Instead of placing your box with its edges parallel to the edges of the wrapping paper, put it on a diagonal in the middle of the piece of wrapping paper. Kelsey Hurwitz, Woman's Day, "This Viral Gift-Wrapping Trick Will Blow Your Mind and Save Your Holidays," 17 Dec. 2019 Only that was in Ciudad Miguel Aleman, about a two-hour drive south parallel to the river. Maria Verza, The Denver Post, "Migrants stuck in lawless limbo within sight of America," 18 Nov. 2019 More than 500 people joined the 80-hour operation to save him, which included pumping oxygen into the pit and drilling another shaft parallel to the well. Helen Regan, Laasya Shekhar And Akanksha Sharma, CNN, "Indian toddler Sujith Wilson dies after days trapped in well," 29 Oct. 2019 His Dark Materials is a multiverse-spanning saga that begins with Lyra Belacqua (played by Dafne Keen on the show), an orphan girl living in Oxford in a reality that exists parallel to our own. Nick Romano,, "His Dark Materials star James McAvoy brings new dimensions to Lord Asriel," 28 Oct. 2019 Ruha Benjamin, an associate professor of African American studies at Princeton University, drew a parallel to the way Henrietta Lacks, a young African American mother with cervical cancer, was treated by the medical system. Carolyn Y. Johnson, Anchorage Daily News, "Racial bias in a widely used medical algorithm favors white patients over sicker black patients," 25 Oct. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Wolverine is currently moving north parallel to I-75, according to a recent news release. Emily Bamforth, cleveland, "Meet the snowy owls scientists are tracking over the Great Lakes: Buckeye and Wolverine," 9 Jan. 2020 But the alliance now threatens to fall apart, a parallel for a time when the global trade order and the military and political alliances that once held the modern world together are facing their toughest tests in decades. Michael Corkery, New York Times, "Carlos Ghosn Defends His Legacy," 8 Jan. 2020 That the formative experience of Iran’s generals was a futile conventional war with few parallels in history, except perhaps the First World War, cannot be emphasized enough. Time, "After Soleimani Killing, War With Iran Will Likely Continue As It Has for Decades," 8 Jan. 2020 Colleague Christopher Price drew some compelling parallels between the ’06 Patriots and the ’19 team in a recent piece, noting in particular the lack of high-end weapons Brady had to work with both years. Chad Finn,, "After losses like this, Patriots don’t rebuild, they reload," 7 Jan. 2020 The parallels between the Cosby case and Weinstein were certainly not lost on New York Magazine, which yesterday published photographs of some of Weinstein’s accusers. Fortune, "Harvey Weinstein’s Prosecution Takes a Page from the Bill Cosby Playbook," 7 Jan. 2020 Alana Solomon, a graduate student who is hearing, pointed to parallels between deaf encounters with persecution and maltreatment and those experienced by Jews such as herself. Washington Post, "At Gallaudet University, deaf culture and faith mix," 28 Dec. 2019 The parallels with broader Democratic Party conflicts give the story an unnerving resonance. Sarah Larson, The New Yorker, "The Best Podcasts of 2019," 21 Dec. 2019 McMicken parallels Central Parkway to the north in an area between Marshall Avenue and Linn Street Charles McMicken's donation of land to Cincinnati after his death was pivotal to the establishment of UC, according to a Dec. 17 Enquirer article. Chris Mayhew,, "In wake of UC removing slaveholders' name, councilman wants street renamed," 19 Dec. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The Trump administration’s shoddy response to Hurricane Maria parallels the Bush administration’s response to Hurricane Katrina as a reminder of what can befall nonwhite Americans who live at the periphery of our national attention. Osita Nwanevu, The New Republic, "Our Frightening Moment Was Years in the Making," 8 Jan. 2020 Beverly’s reaction paralleled the fervor with which fans had adopted the Homecoming song and sent the original version back up the charts. The Atlantic, "The 14 Best Music Moments of 2019," 18 Dec. 2019 The natural-gas pipeline would parallel the route, under the company’s currently preferred scenario, crossing the lake and continuing alongside another length of road 29 miles to the mine. Los Angeles Times, "‘This is our land’: How a tiny Alaskan village stymied Pebble Mine," 23 Oct. 2019 This increase paralleled deforestation, but that's where things get tricky. Cathleen O'grady, Ars Technica, "In the Amazon, deforestation is linked to higher malaria rates," 21 Oct. 2019 His eventual surge paralleled that of the Cubs’ 13-2 run in late April to mid-May. Mark Gonzales,, "Should Anthony Rizzo take on a larger leadership role? 5 questions about Cubs first basemen heading into 2020.," 5 Oct. 2019 The southern portion of the pipeline route would parallel the Susitna River along its west side until reaching the Cook Inlet crossing to Nikiski. Elwood Brehmer, Anchorage Daily News, "Valdez protests gas line analysis favoring Nikiski terminal, but Mat-Su Borough is satisfied," 11 July 2019 Place sheets of dough parallel to each other, aligning on a longer edge. Nancy Stohs, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "14 Holiday Cookie Contest winning recipes, ahead of this year's Dec. 4 reveal," 29 Nov. 2019 In some ways, Northland’s proposal parallels a separate mixed-use project being considered at the parking lot of the Riverside MBTA station., "Newton’s City Council could vote Monday on Northland Investment Corp.’s proposed mixed-use development in Upper Falls — a project that has been touted for its inclusion of new housing and commercial space, but also criticized for its size and potential impacts on nearby neighborhoods.," 29 Nov. 2019 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.

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First Known Use of parallel


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 in 1550

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Statistics for parallel

Last Updated

11 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Parallel.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 17 January 2020.

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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

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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).


a plan in which a last survivor takes all

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