par·​a·​ble ˈper-ə-bəl How to pronounce parable (audio)
: a usually short fictitious story that illustrates a moral attitude or a religious principle
the Biblical parable of the Good Samaritan
also : something (such as a news story or a series of real events) likened to a parable in providing an instructive example or lesson
In some ways, his life is a parable of the corrupting effect of great wealth, for he always assumed that everyone was after his money and out to cheat him. Gavin Stamp
By the summer of 2014, 380 House members and 74 senators had signed on as sponsors …. The ABLE Act had become a force. Yet in a parable of how Washington works, the bill still had a long way to go. Gail Russell Chaddock

Did you know?

Parable comes from the Latin word parabola, from Greek parabolḗ, meaning "comparison." The word parabola may look familiar if you remember your geometry. The mathematical parabola refers to a curve that is shaped like the path of something that is thrown forward and high in the air and falls back to the ground.

Example Sentences

He told the children a parable about the importance of forgiveness. the parable of the Good Samaritan
Recent Examples on the Web The parable of the sower and the investing of talents sound like capitalist increase, but the gains are about doing things that please God, not personal wealth. WSJ, 26 Oct. 2022 That note of weary confusion is all too believable; less persuasive is McDonagh’s effort to frame the private hostilities on Inisherin as a parable of the larger conflict. Anthony Lane, The New Yorker, 14 Oct. 2022 Father and son, no longer estranged in this parable of a wayward child’s redemption in the face of a compassionate adult’s unconditional love, embrace in a dramatic whirlpool of hugging arms and clasping hands. Christopher Knight, Los Angeles Times, 6 Sep. 2022 In answer, Jesus gives the parable of the Good Samaritan. Jay Nordlinger, National Review, 26 Sep. 2022 Polley has made an angry, compassionate parable of Christian belief and female empowerment — two forces, often thought to be irreconcilable, that are shown here to be intrinsically bound. Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times, 3 Sep. 2022 Is the song a parable about civilization, or about the ever-seesawing experience of life? Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, 28 May 2022 The novel’s existential absurdity quickly gives way to a parable of what might be called racial mourning. Ron Charles, Washington Post, 2 Aug. 2022 Everett Comedy and tragedy collide in Bong Joon-ho's exceptional parable that cleaned up at the 2020 Oscars. Deanna Janes, Harper's BAZAAR, 15 July 2022 See More

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

Word History


Middle English parable, parabol "allegorical narrative, proverb, speech," borrowed from Anglo-French parable, going back to Late Latin parabola "comparison, allegory, proverb, discourse, speech," going back to Latin, "explanatory illustration, comparison," borrowed from Greek parabolḗ "juxtaposition, comparison," "proverb" (Septuagint), "parable" (New Testament), from parabol-, stem in noun derivation of parabállein "to cast before (as fodder for a horse), expose, set beside, compare," from para- para- entry 1 + bállein "to reach by throwing, let fly, strike, put, place" — more at devil entry 1

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of parable was in the 14th century


Dictionary Entries Near parable

Cite this Entry

“Parable.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Nov. 2022.

Kids Definition



par·​a·​ble ˈpar-ə-bəl How to pronounce parable (audio)
: a short simple story illustrating a moral or spiritual truth

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