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

Lexington has a bike lane that runs nearly parallel to Ayd Mill. Letter Writers, Twin Cities, "Letters: Make good use of the next couple of months: renegotiate trash in St. Paul," 29 Aug. 2019 The repairs included replacing support beams that run parallel to traffic and some floor beams that run perpendicular to traffic. Cody Boteler,, "Warren Road bridge over Loch Raven Reservoir reopens ahead of schedule," 29 Aug. 2019 The restaurant Ming Ting in Chengdu famously makes a version of mapo tofu with pig’s brains; the effect of the avocado in this case is parallel. Los Angeles Times, "The ultimate mapo tofu recipe has a California twist," 19 Aug. 2019 The study also threw up some benefits for firms that ran parallel to having a potentially happier and more representative workforce. Cassie Werber, Quartz at Work, "The three-stage blueprint for “crafting” a flexible career," 13 Aug. 2019 The entrance to the new subdivision would run south to north off Watercrest Drive, which runs parallel to and south of Edgerton and now dead-ends at the southern boundary of the proposed subdivision site. Bob Sandrick,, "North Royalton tables 5-home development plan, moves 3-home development forward," 6 Aug. 2019 Bend your knees and lower your hips down until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Rozalynn S. Frazier,, "Selena Gomez's Trainer Shares 4 Moves That Keep Her Butt and Abs Super Toned," 1 Aug. 2019 Eleven films will compete in the 2019 Venice Days, or Giornate degli Autori, the independent sidebar that runs parallel to the Venice Film Festival. Ariston Anderson, The Hollywood Reporter, "Venice Days Lineup Focuses on New Filmmakers," 23 July 2019 Running parallel to the ballroom scene on the campus of black colleges and universities in the DMV area was a model troupe scene. Kish Lal, Billboard, "'Pose' Choreographer Twiggy Pucci Garçon Talks the Show's Impact on Modern Ballroom Culture," 23 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

With the addition of an unearthly presence, there's definitely some parallels to Stranger Things in this show. Jasmine Gomez, Seventeen, "12 Shows Like "Stranger Things" You Should Make Your Next Binge-Watch," 12 July 2019 There are so many parallels between Candy’s death and the real-life murder of Venus Xtravaganza, one of the most captivating figures in the classic ball-culture documentary Paris Is Burning. Judy Berman, Time, "‘The Tears Were Real.’ Ryan Murphy and Janet Mock on Pose’s Most Emotional Episode Yet," 11 July 2019 There are many parallels between Downton Abbey and Biltmore’s real-life story of the Vanderbilt family, their friends and staff. Meghan Overdeep, Southern Living, "The Downton Abbey Exhibition is Coming to the Biltmore Estate," 26 June 2019 There are parallels between the recent escalations and the events leading to the Iraq War in 2003. Ashley Shaffer, USA TODAY, "Retaliation against Iran? 'You'll soon find out'," 21 June 2019 There are parallels that can be drawn with Turner and Romeo Langford, who had an underwhelming one season for the Hoosiers. J. Michael, Indianapolis Star, "Insider: Pacers making a good draft choice goes beyond what is seen in college games," 19 June 2019 Despite obvious differences, there are parallels with the transportation debate in San Diego today. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Column: Nearly 40 years ago, another transportation vision emerged for San Diego," 19 June 2019 So are there some real parallels between 2005 and 2018? Brad Biggs,, "Brad Biggs' 10 thoughts on the Bears100 Celebration Weekend," 10 June 2019 There are definitely some thematic parallels between the graphic novel and the new Netflix show. Gabe Bergado, Teen Vogue, ""The Society" Star Gideon Adlon on Why She Fell in Love with the Creepy Series," 15 May 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The Argentine artist has spent two months in residency at the museum working on a suite of drawings that parallel the brutal similarities between desert and ocean. Los Angeles Times, "Datebook: A show about the Santa Monica Airport at the Santa Monica Airport," 30 Aug. 2019 Cliff was once Rick’s stunt double, but, in a decline that parallels his friend’s fading fortunes, now serves mostly as his boy Friday. Naomi Fry, The New Yorker, "The Brutal Logic of Stardom in “Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood”," 6 Aug. 2019 The house due to be razed, at 505 E. Crescent Ave. in Elmhurst, abuts a noise wall that parallels a ramp linking Interstate Highway 290 to I-294. Bob Goldsborough,, "Illinois Tollway buys Elmhurst home for $710,000 to demolish it, make way for Tri-State Tollway project," 22 July 2019 The rise of Chinese soccer balls paralleled China’s rising share of the overall US import market, particularly in products that involve low-skill manufacturing labor. Dan Kopf, Quartz, "The US gets nearly all of its soccer balls from China. But the goal posts are moving," 27 June 2019 Mano Dura paralleled the military’s tactics in the years leading up to the war, when government forces targeted young men whose wardrobes imitated American fashion styles. Daniel Castro, Harper's magazine, "The Truce," 10 June 2019 Would Lucas Giolito be up for showing us how to parallel park? Phil Rosenthal,, "Kris Bryant’s necktie tutorial is just the beginning of the weirdness that is so appealing on the Cubs’ YouTube channel," 15 July 2019 Turn right again as the main trail swings around to parallel Plaza del Amo. Charles Fleming,, "L.A. Walks: The path to a vibrant marsh in Torrance’s industrial core," 14 June 2019 Yes, FC Cincinnati and America's men's national team share parallels at the moment. Patrick Brennan,, "USMNT takeaways: FC Cincinnati, U.S. men's national team have plenty in common," 10 June 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

6 Sep 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

What made you want to look up parallel? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


readily or continually undergoing change

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