pa·​ren·​the·​sis | \ pə-ˈren(t)-thə-səs How to pronounce parenthesis (audio) \
plural parentheses\ pə-​ˈren(t)-​thə-​ˌsēz How to pronounce parentheses (audio) \

Definition of parenthesis

1a : an amplifying (see amplify sense 1) or explanatory word, phrase, or sentence inserted in a passage from which it is usually set off by punctuation explained further in a parenthesis
b : a remark or passage that departs from the theme of a discourse : digression The speaker inserted some often amusing parentheses during his speech.
2 : interlude, interval The parenthesis of war interrupted the course of his life.
3 : one or both of the curved marks ( ) used in writing and printing to enclose a parenthetical expression or to group a symbolic unit in a logical or mathematical expression The plant's common name is followed by its Latin name in parentheses.

Keep scrolling for more

Examples of parenthesis in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Last week’s rankings are included in parentheses if different. 1. J.c. Carnahan,, "Orlando area high school football Super 16 rankings led by Edgewater, Seminole, Jones," 26 Aug. 2019 Here's a look at all 10 of Drake's songwriting credits on the latest Hot 100, with additional co-songwriters in parentheses: Rank, Artist Billing, Title (songwriters in addition to Drake) No. Xander Zellner, Billboard, "Drake Debuts at No. 1 On Hot 100 Songwriters Chart," 14 Aug. 2019 That’s what our teachers told us: Deal with whatever is in parentheses first. Steven Strogatz, New York Times, "The Math Equation That Tried to Stump the Internet," 2 Aug. 2019 Here is the lineup for the Gander Outdoors 400 (car number in parentheses): 1. Ellen J. Horrow, USA TODAY, "NASCAR at Pocono 2019: Schedule, lineup, TV and weather for Gander Outdoors 400," 28 July 2019 Here’s the preseason league picks, with first-place votes in parentheses: Coaches 1. Josh Bean |, al, "Where is Samford picked to finish in Southern Conference?," 22 July 2019 Here is the unofficial lineup for the Quaker State 400 (car number in parentheses): 1. Ellen J. Horrow, USA TODAY, "NASCAR at Kentucky 2019: Schedule, lineup, TV and weather for Quaker State 400," 13 July 2019 For teams that were originally released on March 11, there will be noted changes in parentheses. Mark Heim |,, "Alabama, Auburn see ‘even action’ on win totals, while Clemson improves, USC drops like rock," 10 July 2019 Here is the lineup for the Camping World 400 (car number in parentheses): 1. Ellen J. Horrow, USA TODAY, "NASCAR at Chicagoland 2019: Schedule, lineup, TV and weather for Camping World 400," 30 June 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'parenthesis.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of parenthesis

1548, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for parenthesis

Late Latin, from Greek, literally, act of inserting, from parentithenai to insert, from para- + en- en- + tithenai to place — more at do

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about parenthesis

Statistics for parenthesis

Last Updated

2 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for parenthesis

The first known use of parenthesis was in 1548

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for parenthesis



English Language Learners Definition of parenthesis

: one of a pair of marks ( ) that are used around a word, phrase, sentence, number, etc.


pa·​ren·​the·​sis | \ pə-ˈren-thə-səs How to pronounce parenthesis (audio) \
plural parentheses\ -​ˌsēz \

Kids Definition of parenthesis

: one of a pair of marks ( ) used to enclose a word or group of words or to group mathematical terms to be dealt with as a unit

Other Words from parenthesis

parenthetical \ -​ti-​kəl \ adjective

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on parenthesis

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


authorized for issue (as a bond)

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Musical Words Quiz

  • gramophone
  • Which word describes a musical performance marked by the absence of instrumental accompaniment?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!