par·​lay | \ ˈpär-ˌlā How to pronounce parlay (audio) , -lē How to pronounce parlay (audio) \
parlayed; parlaying; parlays

Definition of parlay

 (Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to bet in a parlay
2a : to exploit successfully He hoped to parlay his basketball skills into a college scholarship.
b : to increase or otherwise transform into something of much greater value She parlayed $5,000 and years of hard work into a multimillion-dollar company.



Definition of parlay (Entry 2 of 2)

: a series of two or more bets so set up in advance that the original stake plus its winnings are risked on the successive wagers broadly : the fresh risking of an original stake together with its winnings

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Did You Know?


If you're the gambling type, you may already know that parlay can also be used as a noun describing a series of bets in which a person places a bet, then puts the original stake of money and all of its winnings on new wagers. But you might not know that parlay represents a modified spelling of the French name for such bets: paroli. You might also be unaware that the original French word is still occasionally used in English with the same meaning as the noun parlay. Be careful not to mix up parlay with the similar word parley, meaning "to discuss terms with an enemy." Although the spellings are very close, parley comes from the Latin word for "speech."

Examples of parlay in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Paul Petersen Petersen and his attorneys have indicated that Petersen's intent in pleading guilty is to parlay the three guilty pleas into a universal deal to reduce his sentence and land him in a federal penitentiary rather than state prison. Jessica Boehm, The Arizona Republic, "Paul Petersen pleads guilty in federal court to smuggling women in adoption scheme," 24 June 2020 And if the ideologues around him parlay their pet theory into an act of aggression against China, the cure may indeed prove worse than the disease. Jake Bittle, The New Republic, "Why Conservatives Believe a Chinese Lab Created the Coronavirus," 15 June 2020 Ohanian doesn’t need a next play at all, and Aveni will likely, and easily, parlay a Facebook resignation on principle into one. Ian Bogost, The Atlantic, "The Silence of the Never Facebookers," 10 June 2020 Maybe Kaepernick, with his foot back in the door, can parlay the opportunity into an even better chance down the road. Jarrett Bell, USA TODAY, "Opinion: To make true progress, NFL needs to right its past wrongs against Colin Kaepernick," 10 June 2020 Analysts have also hyped up the potential for Galactic to parlay its rocket technology into an air travel business that shuttles people between cities at record speeds. Jackie Wattles, CNN, "Virgin Galactic posts another loss as it inches toward space tourism flights," 5 May 2020 Edge: Vikings Vikings pass offense vs. Lions pass defense The Vikings have parlayed their dominant rushing attack into one of the NFL’s best play-action passing games, a combination that the Lions had no answer for in October. Dave Birkett, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit Lions vs. Minnesota Vikings: Dave Birkett's scouting report and prediction," 6 Dec. 2019 However, Syrian Kurds have long known that relations with the United States would be difficult to parlay into a broader political settlement, and in particular in Damascus. Morgan L. Kaplan, Twin Cities, "Morgan L. Kaplan: Trump’s Syria announcement is a change of speed, not a change of direction," 10 Oct. 2019 Some of Denker’s players, like Quinn, are trying to parlay Division I interest into an actual scholarship offer. Connor Letourneau,, "Coronavirus putting college hopes and scholarships on hold for top players," 23 Mar. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Yes, two of the three elements of the parlay were smart, but, as previously discussed, the tip bet is just reckless. Derek Lawrence,, "How insane was Howard Ratner's big Uncut Gems bet? An EW investigation," 26 May 2020 Below is our five-play parlay to keep you interested in college football during the holidays. Ryan Dodson, USA TODAY Sportsbook Wire, "College Football Bowl Betting odds, picks and best bets: Easy 5-play holiday parlay," 20 Dec. 2019 Another hit a nine-game parlay, turning $2 into slightly more than $1,400. Timothy Mclaughlin, The Atlantic, "How to Gamble When There Are No Sports," 25 Apr. 2020 This month, a gambler put down a $900 bet on a parlay of six such matches and collected nearly $19,000 in winnings. Timothy Mclaughlin, The Atlantic, "How to Gamble When There Are No Sports," 25 Apr. 2020 If any bet in the parlay loses, the entire wager loses. Dana Hunsinger Benbow, Indianapolis Star, "Take a look inside a sports book at one of first Indiana casinos to offer wagering on NFL, NCAA, NBA," 30 Aug. 2019 Altogether, this three-team parlay – with the Memphis ML – will payout at +958 odds. Ryan Dodson, USA TODAY Sportsbook Wire, "College Football Bowl Betting: Best Parlay Options," 20 Dec. 2019 That would lead to a whole different parlay of circumstances; isolation and other things. Jackie Strause, The Hollywood Reporter, "As Some New York Hospitals Ban Birth Partners, a Doctor Weighs In," 27 Mar. 2020 Also, who doesn’t want one (or two) more weeks of RedZone Channel, fantasy football, Buffalo Wild Wings, and three-team parlays? Ben Volin,, "Everything you need to know about the NFL’s proposed 17-game schedule and expanded playoffs," 20 Feb. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'parlay.' 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 parlay


1828, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1904, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for parlay


verbal derivative (perhaps with conformation to parley entry 2 or French parler "to speak") of paroli "series of bets set up so that the original stake and winnings are placed on successive wagers," borrowed from French, borrowed from Italian, plural of parolo (stress on first syllable), of uncertain origin

Note: Apparently the earliest attestation of the Italian word is in the Italian-English dictionary of John Florio, Queen Anna's New World of Words, or Dictionarie of the Italian and English Tongues (London, 1611), in which Pároli is defined as "a grand part set or cast at dice," with a corresponding verb Paroláre "to set or play at a grand part at dice." French paroli first appears as a gloss of the Italian word in the Italian-French dictionary of Antoine Oudin, Recherches italiennes et françoises, ou Dictionnaire, contenant outre les mots ordinaires, une quantité de Proverbes & de Phrases (Paris, 1640), where Italian Paroli is glossed as "paroli, aux dez" ("paroli, at dice"). C. Battisti and G. Alessio (Dizionario etimologico italiano, Florence, 1954) characterize parolo as Neapolitan ("voce napoletano") and adduce additionally Sicilian pàrula "doppia posta nel giuoco del faraone o bassetta" ("double stake in the game of faro or basset [a game similar to faro]"), which they aver to be a derivative of paro "equal." Opposing these conjectures is the entry párolo in a list of dialect words from Lucca in Tuscany, along with their etymologies, compiled by Silvio Pieri ("Appunti etimologici," Zeitschrift für romanische Philologie, Band 30 [1903], p. 302). Pieri proposes that the word is an agglutination of paro lo "I offer it (hold it out)," referring to the sum wagered. This etymology is seconded by the Oxford English Dictionary, third edition, and the Trésor de la langue française.


derivative of parlay entry 1

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The first known use of parlay was in 1828

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Last Updated

4 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Parlay.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for parlay


How to pronounce parlay (audio) How to pronounce parlay (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of parlay

US : to use or develop (something) to get something else that has greater value

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More from Merriam-Webster on parlay

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for parlay

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with parlay

Britannica English: Translation of parlay for Arabic Speakers

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