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 The parallel the Sangh Parivar drew was with the reconstruction of the Somnath temple. Niharika Sharma, Quartz India, "LK Advani: Hindu nationalism’s original poster boy who could not reap what he sowed," 8 Nov. 2019 In parallel, Lebanon's economy has also suffered from economic stagnation and ballooning debt, leaving Hezbollah with ever-more limited resources to draw from. CNN, "For a week, Israel and Lebanon seemed on the brink of war. But neither has the appetite for it," 3 Sep. 2019 In parallel with the offering, WeWork has been in talks to raise as much as $6 billion in debt. Los Angeles Times, "WeWork chases high-risk path toward ultimate unicorn IPO," 14 Aug. 2019 In parallel with those successes, though, IKAROS revealed how much work remains to be done to realize the full potential of light propulsion. NBC News, "Spacecraft that sail on sunshine could be the next big thing in spaceflight," 3 June 2019 This time of year the full moon is at the intersection of the ecliptic and celestial equator, and because of that the full moon’s path among the stars is nearly parallel to the horizon. Mike Lynch, Twin Cities, "Mike Lynch: The harvest moon is shining bright this week," 15 Sep. 2019 The front of the cab appeared to be about parallel to the sleeping woman, when the truck turned down an alley toward her and appeared to run her over while passing through the alley, the affidavit said., "Garbage truck driver ran over woman found dead in sleeping bag, Eugene police say," 28 Aug. 2019 Brad Pitt in a recent interview drew parallel lines between the Manson Family murders that rocked Hollywood nearly 50 years ago and the 2017 Harvey Weinstein scandal. Ryan Parker, The Hollywood Reporter, "Brad Pitt Compares Manson Family Murders to the Harvey Weinstein Scandal," 30 July 2019 Step 3: Lay out your starting point by pulling a parallel line off the most visually focal wall. Taylor Mead, House Beautiful, "How to Install Hardwood Floors," 26 July 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun There is an interesting parallel between gun control and the vaping issue. Letter Writers, Twin Cities, "Letters: The parallel between gun control and vaping control," 1 Nov. 2019 There are parallels between today's Arsenal and the side of 12 years ago., "Arsenal Can Upset the Narrative and Match the Heroes of 2007 in the Women's Champions League," 1 Nov. 2019 There might not be many parallels between the worlds of fashion and basketball, but one similarity is that the players have their very own runway: the tunnel. Liana Satenstein, Vogue, "@LeagueFits Is the Instagram Account Putting Basketball Fashion Into the Spotlight," 31 Oct. 2019 Watching Mr Trump at the lectern, there were obvious parallels to 2011, when Barack Obama announced a similar raid that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda, in his Pakistani hideout. The Economist, "Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of Islamic State, is dead," 27 Oct. 2019 For historian Milne-Smith, there are parallels between then and now. Suyin Haynes, Time, "The Wing Is Opening Its First International Space in London. Here's What's Behind the Revival of the City's Private Members' Clubs," 22 Oct. 2019 More: For Michigan football safety Dax Hill, college has been lesson in figuring it all out (Photo: Kirthmon F. Dozier, Detroit Free Press) For Michigan, there are many parallels between their last trip to Beaver Stadium and Saturday's contest. Orion Sang, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan football's loss at Penn State in 2017 sticks with Wolverines," 16 Oct. 2019 As some have commented, there are strong parallels with Watergate. John J Stremlau, Quartz Africa, "The Trump circus was a distraction from Africa’s climate change fight at the UN summit," 2 Oct. 2019 There is a parallel between environmental preservation and the preservation of the markets. Washington Post, "Investment funds managing $16 trillion urge companies in Brazil to fight Amazon deforestation," 20 Sep. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Sullivan workshopped his identity and his relationships, committing to the page an interior monologue of self-discovery that paralleled the gay-liberation movement, the burgeoning transgender-rights movement, and the AIDS crisis. Jeremy Lybarger, The New Yorker, "Lou Sullivan’s Diaries Are a Radical Testament to Trans Happiness," 16 Sep. 2019 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 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

15 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for parallel

The first known use of parallel was in 1550

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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).


meddlesome, informal, or unofficial

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