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[puh-ren-thuh-sis] /pəˈrɛn θə sɪs/
noun, plural parentheses
[puh-ren-thuh-seez] /pəˈrɛn θəˌsiz/ (Show IPA)
either or both of a pair of signs () used in writing to mark off an interjected explanatory or qualifying remark, to indicate separate groupings of symbols in mathematics and symbolic logic, etc.
Usually, parentheses. the material contained within these marks.
Grammar. a qualifying, explanatory, or appositive word, phrase, clause, or sentence that interrupts a syntactic construction without otherwise affecting it, having often a characteristic intonation and indicated in writing by commas, parentheses, or dashes, as in William Smith—you must know him—is coming tonight.
an interval.
Origin of parenthesis
1560-70; < Late Latin < Greek parénthesis a putting in beside. See par-, en-2, thesis Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for parentheses
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The number of instances of each word are given in parentheses.

    The City Bride (1696) Joseph Harris
  • In the terms of venation, these parentheses occur most frequently.

  • Dashes are much used where parentheses were formerly employed.

    The Verbalist Thomas Embly Osmun, (AKA Alfred Ayres)
  • If the connection of such expressions is remote, parentheses are used.

    Punctuation Frederick W. Hamilton
  • If used at all with the parentheses, it should follow the closing parenthesis.

    Punctuation Frederick W. Hamilton
  • Page numbers in brackets or parentheses may have been added by the editor.

    Two Poems Against Pope Leonard Welsted
  • The parts inclosed in parentheses are interpolations of the learned Professor.

    La Chanson de Roland

    Lon Gautier
  • Clicking on the words in parentheses will take show the text as edited.

    Daisy Ashford: Her Book Daisy Ashford
  • The italics in the text, not those in parentheses, are mine.

British Dictionary definitions for parentheses


noun (pl) -ses (-ˌsiːz)
a phrase, often explanatory or qualifying, inserted into a passage with which it is not grammatically connected, and marked off by brackets, dashes, etc
Also called bracket. either of a pair of characters, (), used to enclose such a phrase or as a sign of aggregation in mathematical or logical expressions
an intervening occurrence; interlude; interval
in parenthesis, inserted as a parenthesis
Derived Forms
parenthetic (ˌpærənˈθɛtɪk), parenthetical, adjective
parenthetically, adverb
Word Origin
C16: via Late Latin from Greek: something placed in besides, from parentithenai, from para-1 + en-² + tithenai to put
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 parentheses



1540s, "words, clauses, etc. inserted into a sentence," from Middle French parenthèse (15c.), from Late Latin parenthesis "addition of a letter to a syllable in a word," from Greek parenthesis, literally "a putting in beside," from parentithenai "put in beside," from para- "beside" (see para- (1)) + en- "in" + tithenai "put, place," from PIE root *dhe- "to put, to do" (see factitious). Sense extension by 1715 from the inserted words to the curved brackets that indicate the words inserted.

A wooden parenthesis; the pillory. An iron parenthesis; a prison. ["Dictionary of Buckish Slang, University Wit and Pickpocket Eloquence," London, 1811]

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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parentheses in Culture

parentheses definition

Punctuation marks — ( ) — used to separate elements in a sentence. Parentheses subordinate (see subordination) the material within them so that readers save most of their attention for the rest of the sentence: “Aunt Sarah (who is really my mother's cousin) will be visiting next week.”

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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