par·​al·​lel | \ˈper-ə-ˌlel, 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

b : similarity, analogue

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


the parallel careers of the two movie stars These two sentences are parallel in structure. Notice the parallel development of the two technologies.


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.


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

Starr has to decide whether to serve as a formal witness, all while navigating her parallel lives, split between her mostly black neighborhood and her mostly white, wealthy prep school. Doria Santlofer, Glamour, "Amandla Stenberg: 'I Want to Express Myself as Authentically as I Can.'," 15 Oct. 2018 In this case, the cargo could be laid out in parallel or in a straight line. Joe Pappalardo, Popular Mechanics, "The C-130J Super Hercules Is Ready for the Worst," 9 Oct. 2018 With some use cases today, in fact, hardware and software are now being developed on parallel tracks with the aim of supporting this new wave of AI chips and use cases. Andy Patrizio, Ars Technica, "The AI revolution has spawned a new chips arms race," 9 July 2018 As the council has been crafting legislation to update the regulations regarding assisted living facilities, the city’s health department has been on a parallel track, working for the past year on new regulations. Reis Thebault, Washington Post, "Proposed rules for assisted living facilities in D.C. sparks outcry," 22 June 2018 Timon of Athens Cutting Ball Theater presents Shakespeare’s tale tracking the parallel lives of a rich philanthropist and a military commander. Chronicle Staff Report, San Francisco Chronicle, "Theater capsule reviews and listings, week of April 8," 5 Apr. 2018 Microsoft's Minecraft game has also been enjoying a surprise parallel life as a teaching tool. Michael Calore, WIRED, "Apple Adds Pencil Support to Cheapest iPads, Debuts New Education Software," 27 Mar. 2018 The gist: In this beautifully animated fantasy, young girl named Coraline discovered a universe that exists parallel to hers. Hannah Dylan Pasternak, SELF, "16 Classic Halloween Movies You Can Stream Right Now," 17 Oct. 2018 Netflix’s Big Mouth is an even better parallel to Disenchantment since both are fundamentally coming-of-age stories, and again, the new show comes up short by comparison. Samantha Nelson, The Verge, "Disenchantment lacks the magic of Netflix’s other animated originals," 7 Aug. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Or think about the parallels between Meghan and Stacy? Alyse Whitney, Glamour, "Vanessa Hudgens Watched the Royal Wedding To Get Into Character for The Princess Switch," 21 Nov. 2018 Riot Games could be a particularly apt parallel here: Tencent was first an investor in Riot, and Tencent has also invested in several of Discord’s financing rounds dating back to 2014. Theodore Schleifer, Recode, "Who could buy Discord? Acquirers have been giving the gaming startup a long look.," 21 Nov. 2018 There are about 20 feet of air between the ground and the top of the pilings holding up a new two-story house on the island’s main drag, running parallel to the Gulf of Mexico. Nate Berg, Curbed, "Can engineering save Louisiana’s coastline?," 7 Nov. 2018 Following the Louisiana Purchase, a new treaty in 1818 corrected this problem, by running the border due south from Angle Inlet, the northwestern tip of the lake, to the 49th parallel. Ken Jennings, Condé Nast Traveler, "This Tiny Minnesota Town Is Completely Surrounded by Canada," 5 Nov. 2018 There is no parallel among the black, Latino, or Asian populations without a college degree, which all increased in this period. Gene Balk / Fyi Guy, The Seattle Times, "Washington state’s white working class shrinks in share of population — a national trend," 16 Oct. 2018 Sure, there are lots of parallels to be drawn between breaking up with your financial adviser and breaking up with a love interest. Peter Dunn, USA TODAY, "Pete the Planner: Has your financial adviser failed you? 3 ways to let them know it," 13 July 2018 However, Kate's jacket drew even stronger parallels to her late mother-in-law Princess Diana's style. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "Kate Middleton Had a Princess Diana Moment in Her Gray Blazer," 30 Oct. 2018 The massacre has drawn some unfortunate parallels with the murder of nine African Americans at a South Carolina church in 2015. Eli Rosenberg, The Seattle Times, "Powerful humanity of Jewish hospital staff that treated Robert Bowers," 30 Oct. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Stainless Steel The composition of knives parallels the history of metallurgy: copper, bronze, iron, steel. Francine Maroukian, Popular Mechanics, "How To Buy Kitchen Knives Like a Pro," 24 Oct. 2018 The mobility drive parallels the alliance’s effort to rebuild its arsenals, prompted by Russia’s seizure of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. Daniel Michaels, WSJ, "NATO Dusts Off a Cold War Skill: Moving Troops," 24 Oct. 2018 That top-line figure parallels the Airbus 20-year forecast released earlier this month, although Airbus’s figure excludes freighter jets and the two rivals differ markedly over how the total is divided. Dominic Gates, The Seattle Times, "Boeing predicts strong growth in world’s airplane fleet, looking past near-term uncertainties," 16 July 2018 Most importantly, the men's song parallels the funeral dirge that a Serbian marching band performs at the beginning of Good Luck, introducing the theme of despair that runs through the first half of the film. Ben Sachs, Chicago Reader, "Chicago Underground Film Festival: Gold and copper miners tough it out in Good Luck," 5 June 2018 This three-pronged mixture of indigenous hunter-gatherers, early farmers, and a later wave of migrants parallels the prehistory of Europe, also illuminated by ancient DNA in recent years. Lizzie Wade, Science | AAAS, "How rice farming may have spread across the ancient world," 17 May 2018 The operation also parallels the online disinformation campaign by Russian trolls in the months leading up to the U.S. election in 2016. Fox News, "Russian hackers posed as ISIS to threaten military wives," 8 May 2018 Democrats today are increasingly paralleling Bill Clinton's arguments from that era. Ronald Brownstein, CNN, "The connection that may decide 2018 isn't what you think," 8 May 2018 This section parallels a quieter county road with shade and farmland. Bonnie Gross,, "Explore Florida's Gilchrist County: Nature Coast trail offers up slice of North Florida," 6 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb

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


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


see parallel entry 1


see parallel entry 1


see parallel entry 1

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Statistics for parallel

Last Updated

29 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for parallel

The first known use of parallel was in 1550

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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

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 \

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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More from Merriam-Webster on parallel

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with parallel

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for parallel

Spanish Central: Translation of parallel

Nglish: Translation of parallel for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of parallel for Arabic Speakers

Comments on parallel

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to enclose within walls

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