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

Jeff Hall, a spokesman for the Massachusetts office of the American Red Cross, said that generally, rip currents aren’t wide, and swimming about 50 to 100 feet parallel to the shoreline should allow a person to break free. John Hilliard,, "Beaches reopen, but officials warn swimmers of rip current risk along southern Mass. coast," 12 July 2018 Equipped with sensors, horizontal drilling runs parallel to formations containing oil and natural gas, an advancement that is often three to five times more productive than traditional vertical drilling. Rob Nikolewski,, "California's ranking as an oil-producing state is slipping," 12 July 2018 Lie on your back with your knees bent and legs in a table-top position (shins parallel to each other and to the floor). Mike Candelaria,, "Got 5 minutes? You have time to exercise," 11 July 2018 The nation hung on the unfolding drama: The painstaking effort to drill another shaft, parallel to hers. Jess Bidgood, New York Times, "What Did Baby Jessica Think of the Thai Cave Rescue? She Had No Idea It Happened," 11 July 2018 Additionally, this theory applies only to flat, horizontal surfaces parallel to the ground. Katherine J. Wu, Smithsonian, "Settling a Heated Debate—Do Zebra Stripes Keep These Animals Cool?," 10 July 2018 Kelly uses three parallel narratives to tell the stories of a New York socialite, a young Polish girl, and a Nazi surgeon, all set against the backdrop of World War II. Team Marie Claire, Marie Claire, "11 Best Beach Reads, According to Our Editors," 6 July 2018 Multiple parallel virtual worlds could easily run concurrently. Sandra Upson, WIRED, "Westworld Recap, Season 2 Episode 9: The Many Lives of the Man in Black," 18 June 2018 From the get-go, there was a parallel world of decorum bordering on formality, as seen in Chase's paintings of women walking across the dunes in long white dresses and men sporting straw boaters and bowties. Steven Stolman, Town & Country, "High Society Photographer Bert Morgan Chronicled the Hamptons' Smart Set Before Everything Changed," 13 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

There have been many pieces written about the anxiety-inducing second season’s parallels to the year’s news headlines, from ICE’s role in the series to the show’s depiction of the marginalization of LGBT people and restrictions on women’s rights. Tony Bravo,, "Swearing off the dystopia of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ (spoilers included)," 12 July 2018 Those parallels can be found in the world of podcasting where My Favorite Murder, Missing Richard Simmons, and Dirty John are among the most-downloaded of recent years (not to mention Serial). David Sims, The Atlantic, "What’s Driving Documentaries to Box-Office Success?," 11 July 2018 One fan converted it into a Star Wars homage, making the fall parallel to when Luke Skywalker and his friends fall into the garbage compactor. Kara Nesvig, Teen Vogue, "Shawn Mendes Falls Down on Stage at a Show in Quebec," 9 July 2018 Many people see parallels between the new administration and the NFFA. Sonaiya Kelley,, "An oral history of 'The Purge' franchise: From micro-horror breakout to Trump-era cautionary tale," 4 July 2018 Modern scholars see many parallels between the telegraph of Cooley’s day and the Internet—an e-mail stored in a server is the modern version of a telegram. Joseph O’neill, The New Yorker, "The Mail," 21 June 2018 As Brandon Lee’s final role, many have seen the tragic parallels between the film and Lee’s short life. Richard Newby, The Hollywood Reporter, "Why 'The Crow' Should Not Fly Again," 31 May 2018 Some observers therefore see parallels to 2012, when the Greek sovereign debt crisis (along with debt concerns in Italy, Spain, and Portugal) put severe strains on the eurozone. Jonah Shepp, Daily Intelligencer, "Italy’s Political Crisis Is Rattling Europe. Here’s What You Need to Know.," 30 May 2018 More than that, though, this most meta of designers sees parallels between the Impressionists and his streetwear peers. Nicole Phelps, Vogue, "The Off-White Men’s Pre-Spring Collection Is Inspired by Impressionism, of All Things," 21 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Anderson's work in the ring continues to parallel her fight outside of it. Deaundra Allen, kansascity, "UFC's Megan Anderson fights for acclaim, against depression after moving from Australia to KC," 1 July 2018 Saleh’s story so far appears to parallel those of other drivers who have killed themselves. David Z. Morris, Fortune, "6th New York City Cab Driver Takes His Life in Crisis Blamed on Uber," 16 June 2018 Williams journeyed back to the mother country in the 1640s to obtain a royal charter and found England embroiled in a civil war, amid fierce debates on religion and legislative autonomy that were to parallel those in America. Roger Lowenstein, WSJ, "‘God, War, and Providence’ Review: When Conquest Was Puritanical," 13 June 2018 The immediate area along Southwest 12th Avenue — which serves as the project’s eastern boundary and in part parallels I-95 — is predominantly the scene of commercial activity and devoid of housing. David Lyons,, "Construction starts on Deerfield Station community for working professionals," 12 Mar. 2018 Some elements of this pilot parallel real-life stories of refugees fleeing their homelands in recent years. Sara Aridi, New York Times, "What’s on TV Monday: ‘King in the Wilderness’ and ‘The Good Karma Hospital’," 2 Apr. 2018 The study parallels his past academic work on corporate governance issues. Tom Mcginty, WSJ, "Insiders Pocket Gains on Buybacks, Vexing Regulator," 10 June 2018 Claire Underwood's ascension to power somewhat parallels the gains Wright has made by speaking up and asking for more in her role. Halie Lesavage, Glamour, "Claire Underwood Is Taking Over the White House in the Newest House of Cards Teaser," 5 July 2018 Roughly paralleling Woody Mountain Road, the meandering single track holds steady at around 7,100 feet, sweeping easily through wildflower meadows and shady glens. Mare Czinar, azcentral, "Flagstaff hike: Rogers Trail hike is a lovely walk in the woods," 5 July 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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Learn More about parallel

Statistics for parallel

Last Updated

20 Sep 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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