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.

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Examples of parenthesis in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Of note, the number in parentheses reflects where each prospect was rated in the preseason and NR denotes the player is entering the Southern 120 for the first time. al, "The Southern 120: See updated rankings for Class of 2020," 13 Jan. 2020 Here is the Associated Press Top 10 Florida high school football poll, with first-place votes in parentheses, records, rating points and previous rankings. Adam Lichtenstein,, "St. Thomas edges out Lakeland in final Associated Press poll," 5 Nov. 2019 Here’s how the first 20 spots in the first round look after completion of the regular season (strength of schedule played in parentheses): FIRST ROUND 1. Scott Patsko, cleveland, "Where the Browns pick in the 2020 NFL Draft," 30 Dec. 2019 Here’s the complete preseason Sun Belt predicted order of finish, as well as preseason All-Sun Belt teams: Preseason coaches’ poll First-place votes in parentheses1. Creg Stephenson |, al, "South Alabama men’s basketball picked to win Sun Belt Conference in 2019-20," 1 Nov. 2019 Here are the updates from the UIL, with updated numbers in bold (previous numbers in parentheses). Adam Coleman, Houston Chronicle, "UIL updates conference cutoff numbers for 5A, 4A," 10 Dec. 2019 Here's how the first 20 spots in the first round look after Week 13 (strength of schedule played in parentheses): FIRST ROUND 1. Scott Patsko, cleveland, "Where the Browns pick in the 2020 NFL Draft after Week 13," 3 Dec. 2019 Last week’s rankings are included in parentheses if different. 1. J.c. Carnahan,, "Seminole hosts Apopka in football matchup of top-5 Sentinel Super 16 teams," 18 Nov. 2019 Sectional championships by sport are in parentheses. David Woods, Indianapolis Star, "Zionsville setting pace in Indiana, and not just in girls cross-country," 31 Oct. 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.

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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

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Time Traveler for parenthesis

Time Traveler

The first known use of parenthesis was in 1548

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Statistics for parenthesis

Last Updated

21 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Parenthesis.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 21 January 2020.

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More Definitions for parenthesis


How to pronounce parenthesis (audio)

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

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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).


good-natured easy friendliness

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