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


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

The show’s characters end up discovering a parallel universe, known as the Upside Down. Marco Santana,, "Universal puts ‘Stranger Things’-inspired decor at Cabana Bay," 12 Sep. 2019 AltSarkar is a role-play government that relies heavily on satire to present a parallel universe, an alternative reality. Manavi Kapur, Quartz India, "A poll on Twitter has birthed an all-spoof alternative Indian government," 28 Aug. 2019 Additional parallel universes could exist in higher dimensions of space beyond our view. George Musser, Scientific American, "The Search for Truth in Physics," 25 Aug. 2019 In the parallel universe of Facebook, though, The Western Journal has been among the most popular and influential publications in America, shaping the political beliefs of more than 36 million deeply loyal readers and followers. Justin Bank, New York Times, "Big Tech, a Conservative Provocateur and the Fight Over Disinformation," 21 Aug. 2019 The censors here usually go to great lengths to scrub China’s parallel media universe of any reference to protests or calls for greater freedoms, for fear of giving young Chinese ideas. Anna Fifield, Washington Post, "Chinese youth, fed ‘officially sanctioned fake news,’ vilify Hong Kong peers," 15 Aug. 2019 The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman The Golden Compass, published in 1995, is the first novel in the beloved young-adult fantasy series, His Dark Materials, a magical story set in a parallel universe. Morgan Hoit, Time, "7 Books That Were Better Than Their Movie Adaptations," 29 July 2019 The sprawling landscape features a heroic young orphan named Lyra Belacqua (Dafne Keen), themes of religion, philosophy and coming-of-age, the presence of parallel universes, and demons, which are animal manifestations of a person's inner soul. Brian Truitt, USA TODAY, "Comic-Con: HBO's 'His Dark Materials' is a demon-filled 'wild ride' for Lin-Manuel Miranda," 19 July 2019 You’d be forgiven, watching the dueling livestreams, for thinking you’d stumbled across portals into a pair of parallel universes. Gregory Barber, WIRED, "While Washington Talks Antitrust, Europe Takes Action," 18 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

For all the current political parallels between Venezuela and Cuba, immigration policy has been a point of conspicuous divergence. Jonathan Blitzer, The New Yorker, "The Fight for the Latino Vote in Florida," 16 Sep. 2019 Her position at the table has few parallels in front office circles., "For “the brotherhood” and for the sport, Ferreira’s elevated status within the transition team – membership in the Red Sox “Gang of Four,” Afterman joked, with a nod to the leaders of China’s Cultural Revolution — marks an enormous development.," 14 Sep. 2019 Garcia and Ximenes’ legacies, though at once parallel, began to diverge in the latter part of their lives, Kells said. Elaine Ayala,, "Vicente Ximenes’ life and work are lessons in history and strategy," 14 Sep. 2019 For another Rivers parallel from the archives, go back to Pittsburgh and December 2012. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Column: Chargers’ Rivers relishes chance to win despite injury hurdles," 12 Sep. 2019 Yet exploring the parallels between U.S. and Russian strategy during these two periods is nonetheless instructive. Vance Serchuk, National Review, "Russia’s Middle East Power Play," 12 Sep. 2019 But the absence of any other explanation and the parallels between the victim’s symptoms and those of patients elsewhere lead them to suspect that vaping was the cause. oregonlive, "Exclusive: Lung doctors tell why and how Oregon vaping victim died," 11 Sep. 2019 The findings from the Morning Consult survey released Monday parallels with other national polls in recent weeks—the results show Biden on top with either Warren or Sanders trailing. Fortune, "Biden Has Double-Digit Lead Over Rival Dems in New Morning Consult Poll," 10 Sep. 2019 Going parallel across the opposite side of the Arctic, in a little more luxurious fashion, is the European cruise ship the Silver Explorer. Author: Davis Hovey, Anchorage Daily News, "With sea ice still melting, vessels doing Arctic transits stop at Nome late in season," 10 Sep. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Thankfully there has been no recent incident paralleling the carnage of San Fernando, but President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has acknowledged that one of his biggest fears is a possible repeat. Washington Post, "Mexico violence: Alarming parallels to previous brutalities," 30 Aug. 2019 Spanning three paralleling timelines — 1963, 1984 and 2019 — the show introduces us to three storylines involving the various owners of a tony Pasadena mansion and all their salacious problems. Robyn Bahr, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Why Women Kill': TV Review," 15 Aug. 2019 The crowds filled a wide thoroughfare and side streets paralleling the waterfront of Victoria Harbor as tourists and shoppers who drive much of the Asian financial hub’s economy looked on. Elaine Kurtenbach,, "Massive protests draw apology from Hong Kong government," 16 June 2019 Just as The Kiss Quotient ties to her own diagnosis and The Bride Test parallels her mother’s immigrant story, The Heart Principle will be a very personal book for Hoang. Maureen Lee Lenker,, "See the cover of Helen Hoang's third romance novel, The Heart Principle," 12 Sep. 2019 An admirable gesture, but the National Hurricane Center was predicting that the storm would parallel the southeastern coast, remaining over the Atlantic Ocean — far from Alabama. Eugene Robinson, The Mercury News, "Robinson: Trump’s bogus map embodies the man," 6 Sep. 2019 So this evidence provides information about the timing of arrival of this ancestry type, and their movement parallels the linguistic phylogeny of Indo-European languages, which today are spoken in places as far away as Ireland to New Delhi. Brian Handwerk, Smithsonian, "Rare Ancient DNA Provides Window Into a 5,000-Year-Old South Asian Civilization," 5 Sep. 2019 With each route planned to run curbside, city staff said angled parking along some areas on Brand and Central would need to be converted to parallel parking to preserve the number of existing traffic lanes. Lila Seidman, Glendale News-Press, "Proposed Glendale streetcar rolls into focus," 6 Aug. 2019 Those methods parallel today’s websites and mobile apps. Ephrat Livni, Quartz, "Domino’s Pizza delivers a game-changing case to the US Supreme Court," 6 Aug. 2019

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

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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Statistics for parallel

Last Updated

18 Oct 2019

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 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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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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involving a confidence or trust

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