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[par-uh-buh l] /ˈpær ə bəl/
a short allegorical story designed to illustrate or teach some truth, religious principle, or moral lesson.
a statement or comment that conveys a meaning indirectly by the use of comparison, analogy, or the like.
Origin of parable
1275-1325; Middle English parabil < Late Latin parabola comparison, parable, word < Greek parabolḗ comparison, equivalent to para- para-1 + bolḗ a throwing
Related forms
[puh-rab-uh-list] /pəˈræb ə lɪst/ (Show IPA),
1. allegory, homily, apologue. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for parables
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • In connexion with hair like that one must speak in parables.

    Alarms and Discursions G. K. Chesterton
  • The most beautiful fictions ever written were the parables of the Savior.

  • What is true of proverbs, is true of all fables, parables, and allegories.

    Nature Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Whittier said, "But do they not always have an application, like the parables?"

    Whittier-land Samuel T. Pickard
  • "The Bible is filled with parables," said Mr. Talmadge, simply.

    'Smiles' Eliot H. Robinson
  • "Oh, don't talk in these parables," cried Flambeau impatiently.

    The Wisdom of Father Brown G. K. Chesterton
British Dictionary definitions for parables


a short story that uses familiar events to illustrate a religious or ethical point related adjectives parabolic parabolical
any of the stories of this kind told by Jesus Christ
Derived Forms
parabolist (pəˈræbəlɪst) noun
Word Origin
C14: from Old French parabole, from Latin parabola comparison, from Greek parabolē analogy, from paraballein to throw alongside, from para-1 + ballein to throw
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for parables



mid-13c., parabol, modern form from early 14c., "saying or story in which something is expressed in terms of something else," from Old French parable "parable, parabolic style in writing" (13c.), from Latin parabola "comparison," from Greek parabole "a comparison, parable," literally "a throwing beside," hence "a juxtaposition," from para- "alongside" (see para- (1)) + bole "a throwing, casting, beam, ray," related to ballein "to throw" (see ballistics).

Replaced Old English bispell. In Vulgar Latin, parabola took on the meaning "word," hence Italian parlare, French parler "to speak" (see parley (n.)).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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parables in Culture

parables definition

In the New Testament, the stories told by Jesus to convey his religious message; they include the parable of the Good Samaritan and that of the Prodigal Son.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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