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 : similar, analogous, or interdependent in tendency or development : exhibiting parallelism in form, function, or development … the standing committee systems in the two Houses are reasonably parallel— Harold Zink parallel strikes on the railroads, in the gas and electricity services and in the metal and mining industries.— Percy Winner — see also 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 Trying to remember March 2020 feels like sticking your head into a parallel universe. James Hamblin, The Atlantic, "COVID-21: A Primer," 26 Mar. 2021 In a parallel Hollywood universe of the ’70s and ’80s, Kotto would’ve been a marquee brand. Michael Phillips,, "Remembering Yaphet Kotto, and the screen career Hollywood didn’t accommodate," 17 Mar. 2021 Well, before being kidnapped and replaced by an evil doppelganger from a parallel universe, that is. Tribune News Service, cleveland, "Questions and answers from the ‘WandaVision’ finale: Captain Comics," 13 Mar. 2021 Football at the teenage level differs from baseball in a crucial respect: It is based almost entirely around high schools, without a parallel universe of clubs and tournaments. ProPublica, "rigid restrictions on campus life," 10 Mar. 2021 While previous seasons of Lost included regular flashbacks and, later, flash-forwards, the sixth season featured what were called flash-sideways: glimpses of the characters in a parallel universe where Oceanic 815 had never crashed. Jen Chaney, Vulture, "No, They Weren’t Dead the Whole Time," 25 Feb. 2021 Reliable Sources With Brian Stelter Topic: America’s parallel universes of news about Trump and Biden: Matt Lewis; S.E. Cupp. Ed Stockly, Los Angeles Times, "What’s on TV Saturday, Sunday Talk: A Bee Gees documentary," 11 Dec. 2020 Sci-fi fans are probably already well-aware of the multiverse theory, and more specifically, the facet of it known as parallel universes. Sarah Midkiff,, "According To TikTok, John Mulaney Started The Pandemic — But He’s Also Going To End It," 30 Oct. 2020 After all, when our first issue came out in 1845, the planet Neptune had yet to be discovered; today cosmologists soberly debate the existence of parallel universes. The Editors, Scientific American, "Welcome to 175 Years of Discovery," 18 Aug. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Thanks to other quantum phenomena, which are described in our explainer here, quantum computers can crunch large amounts of data in parallel that conventional machines have to work through sequentially. Julie Washington, cleveland, "‘Discovery Accelerator,’ a new Cleveland Clinic-IBM partnership, will use quantum computer, artificial intelligence to speed up medical innovations," 30 Mar. 2021 In parallel, the further dissemination of synthetic opioids like fentanyl during the pandemic has claimed more lives. Dr. Nicholas Nissen, ABC News, "Dying of loneliness: What COVID-19 has taught us about the opioid epidemic," 21 Mar. 2021 Or, consider building a new research and development team that works in parallel with an existing engineering team. Ryan Gray, Forbes, "Why Product Development Is So Risky — And How To Lessen Uncertainty," 17 Mar. 2021 Peng and Vempala’s new technique employs an enhanced version of the iterated guessing strategy: Instead of making just a single guess, their algorithm makes many guesses in parallel. Quanta Magazine, "New Algorithm Breaks Speed Limit for Solving Linear Equations," 8 Mar. 2021 Momentum and action can and must run in parallel across the private and public sectors. Sharon Hendricks, Fortune, "One of America’s biggest pension funds is backing a bolder climate policy. Other investors should get on board," 4 Mar. 2021 But because of all the resources poured into this effort, those steps occurred in parallel, cutting down on the time significantly without cutting corners. Mackenzie Chung Fegan, Bon Appétit, "We Asked a Doctor All Our COVID-19 Vaccine Questions," 4 Mar. 2021 What followed was an industry expansion without parallel. Daniel Casse, WSJ, "The Future Turns 50 This Year," 1 Jan. 2021 Zinc use rose roughly in parallel with peaks of infections in 2020, climbing four-fold by the end of the year. USA Today, "What science has learned works and what doesn’t in COVID treatments," 14 Mar. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Similarly, researchers have demonstrated that the deep networks most proficient at classifying speech, music and simulated scents have architectures that seem to parallel the brain’s auditory and olfactory systems. Quanta Magazine, "Deep Neural Networks Help to Explain Living Brains," 28 Oct. 2020 Once again, Jules’ style choices parallel her story, with a wardrobe full of unique, hard-to-replicate pieces selected by costume designer Heidi Bivens. Eliza Huber,, "Jules’ Euphoria Necklace Is From One Of Instagram’s Favourite Brands — & Available To Buy," 26 Jan. 2021 What draws you to parallel worlds that aren’t at the forefront of design conversations? Sarah Khan, ELLE Decor, "How Architecture Can Be a Force for Social Justice," 19 Jan. 2021 It is expected to parallel, in part, construction of a $12 million sister park known as Sweetwater Park. Jennifer Van Grove, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Harbor Park, a $47.5M coastal attraction in Chula Vista, OK’d by port," 9 Dec. 2020 Beaver Island has about 100 miles of road, with awesome coastal dirt paths that parallel the sunrise or sunset. Austin Irwin, Car and Driver, "2020 in Review: Behold the Many Wonders of Michigan," 19 Dec. 2020 But what really stands out in this virtual production is the way DeLappe had already shaped the audience’s experience to parallel the girls’. New York Times, "How ‘Wolves’ and ‘Heroes’ Are Saving Pandemic Theater," 6 Dec. 2020 Her journey seems to parallel Harper’s coming out in a way — Jane’s arc is about asserting herself as the family weirdo. Anne Cohen,, "The Breakout Star Of Happiest Season On That Wild Christmas Eve Scene," 26 Nov. 2020 For Our Lives will visit nine states starting Monday, including Arizona, Colorado, Michigan, Texas, and Georgia, creating art exhibitions that will parallel digital rallies all aimed at capturing the youth vote., "Conway to leave White House, cites desire to focus on family," 23 Aug. 2020 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


circa 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 circa 1550

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Statistics for parallel

Last Updated

1 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Parallel.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Apr. 2021.

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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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