par·​ol ˈper-əl How to pronounce parol (audio)
parol adjective

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Since the 18th century, parol has been pretty much confined to oral contracts and the realm of law. No longer is anyone likely to refer to the "sweet parols" of a paramour, as in one 16th-century work. Parol brings to mind that other legal word, parole. Both words lack any connection with law in their original form. They come from Latin parabola, which means "parable" or "speech." The Latin, in turn, is from Greek parabole, meaning "comparison." The French created two words (which we then borrowed) from parabola: parol, meaning "spoken words," and parole, for "word of honor." Originally, a parole was a prisoner of war's promise to fulfill certain conditions on consideration of his release.

Examples of parol in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Many parols incorporate bright hues and Christmas colors. Hannah Dormido, Washington Post, 20 Dec. 2023 Illustrations of different types of Filipino parols. Hannah Dormido, Washington Post, 20 Dec. 2023 The highlight of a visit here is the parol, a colorful, electric Christmas lantern that symbolizes the Star of Bethlehem. CNN, 3 Dec. 2022 Each parol consists of thousands of spinning lights that illuminate the night sky. Caleigh Alleyne, Country Living, 28 Nov. 2022 Special Christmas lanterns called 'parols' made of bamboo and paper are hung around towns and villages, with some places even holding contests for the most beautiful Christmas decorations. Ashley Novak, CNN, 25 Dec. 2019

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'parol.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


borrowed from Middle French parole "speech, expression in words, word, promise" — more at parole entry 1

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of parol was in the 15th century


Dictionary Entries Near parol

Cite this Entry

“Parol.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Feb. 2024.

Legal Definition


1 of 2 noun
par·​ol ˈpar-əl How to pronounce parol (audio)
: an oral declaration or statement
where the evidence of the gift rests in parolMatter of Cohn, 176 N.Y.S. 225 (1919) (dissent)


2 of 2 adjective
: executed or made by word of mouth or by a writing not under seal
a parol agreement
: given or expressed by word of mouth : oral as distinguished from written
: relating to matters outside of a writing

Anglo-French, speech, talk, from Old French parole

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