Figure Name parabola
Source Silva Rhetoricae (; Garrett Epp (1994) ("similitudo," "parabole"); Ad Herennium ("comparison) (377-383); Bede 618; Sherry (1550) 90 ("parabole," "similitude," "comparicon"); Peacham (1577) U2r; Putt. (1589) 251 ("parabola," "resemblance misticall"); JG Smith (1665) ("parabola"); Vinsauf (1967) ("comparison (collatio)") ("similitudo"); Gibbons (1767) 399 ("parabole"); De Mille (1882) ("comparison," "parable"); Bain (1867) 38 ("parable"); Hill (1883) ("parable"); Waddy (1889)("parable"); Bullinger (1898) ("parabola; or, parable: i.e., continued simile"); Kellog (1880) ("parables")
Earliest Source None
Synonyms parabole, similitude, comparison, resemblance misticall, similitudo, collatio, parable, continued simile, parable
Etymology from para “beside” and ballein “to throw or cast”
Type Trope
Linguistic Domain Semantic

1. The explicit drawing of a parallel between two essentially dissimilar things, especially with a moral or didactic purpose. A parable. (Silva Rhetoricae)

2. A manner of speech that detects a kind of resemblance in things or situations that are different. It works through contrast, negation, detailed parallel, or abridged comparison. (Garrett Epp)

3. Comparison is a manner of speech that carries over an element of likeness from one thing to a different thing. This is used to embellish or prove or clarify or vivify. (Ad Herennium)

4. A parable or similitude, a comparison made under some similitude.; PARABOLA, [parabole] a parable, or a similitude of a thing: derived from [paraballo] confero, comparo, assimilo, to confer, resemble, or make comparison. A Parable is as it were a shadow that goes before the truth: and is by nature a comparison of things that differ, made under some similitude. It is said to be a similitude, when by some comparison we make known that which we would have to be understood. So we say a man to be made of iron, when we would be understood to speak of a cruel hardhearted and strong man. It is a comparing, signifying a similitude, (or a comparative speech) tending to the explanation and perspicuity of the things under it: or it is a similitudinary speech, whereby one thing is uttered and another signified. In Parables we must alwayes look more to the sense and scope, then to the letter. Note that in a Parable there are three things essentially considerable; viz.

(1) Cottex, the rind or shell; that is the words and terms.

(2) Radix, the root or the scope unto which the Parable tends.

(3) Medulla, the marrow, that is, the mystical sense of the Parable, or the fruit which may be gathered from it.(JG Smith)

5. A third step is comparison, made in accord with one of two laws - either in a hidden or in an overt manner. (Note in marg.: (a) overt (aperta)) Notice that some things are joined deftly enough but certain signs reveal the point of juncture. A comparison which is made overtly present a resmeblance which signs explicitly point out. These signs are three: the words more, less, equally. (Note in marg.: (b) hidden (occulta)) A comparison that is made in a hidden way is introduced with no sign to point it out. It is introduced not under its own aspect but with dissemble mien, as if there were no comparison there at all, but that taking on, one might say, of a new form marvelously engrafted, where the new element fits as securely into the new context as if it were born of the theme. The new term is, indeed, taken from elsewhere, but it seems to be taken from there; it is from outside and does not appear outside; it makes an appearance within and is not within; so it fluctuates inside and out, here and there, far and near; it stands apart, and yet is at hand. It is a kind of plant; if it is planted in the garden of the material the handling of the subject will be pleasanter. Here is the flowing water of a well-spring, where the source runs purer; here is the formula for a skilful juncture, where the elements joined flow together and touch each other as if they were not contiguous but continuous; as if the hand of nature had joined them rather than the hand of art. This type of comparison is more artistic; its use is much more distinguished. (Vinsauf)

5. (Similitudo) There are other figures to adorn the meaning of words. All of these I include in the following brief treatment: when meaning is adorned, this is the standard procedure. ... ((10) similitudo (comparison) Often from an object basically dissimilar I draw forth a point of resemblance. (Vinsauf)

6. "a Figure that compares one thing with another, to which it bears a resemblance." (Gibbons)

7 a) 93. COMPARISON.
Comparison is that figure by which the resemblance between two objects is pointed out.
There are three kinds of comparison:
1. The comparison degree.
In this the comparison refers to equality, superiority, or inferiority; e.g., "He is as brave as a lion."
2. The comparison of analogy.
Here the objects compared are not similar in themselves, but occupy similar relations to something else; e.g., "Time is like a river."
3. The comparison of similarity.
Here the objection compared are actually similar in themselves; e.g., "He is like his father."
The comparison of analogy and that of similarity are both called simile. (De Mille)

7 b) 113. PARABLE.
The parable may be defined as a fictitious example designed to inculcate moral or religious truth. It is similar to the allegory; and indeed it often happens that it is difficult to assign some pieces with certainty to the one or the other. There is, however, and essential difference between them.
The allegory sets forth a story which shall impart moral instruction of a general character; the parable is a story told for the sake of illustrating some special point. The former is many-sided, the latter is single in its aim; in the one the moral follows from the narrative, in the other the narrative is made up expressly for the sake of the moral; in the allegory the story itself is full of interest, in the parable the moral quite overshadows the story. (De Mille)

8. "The Parables of the Bible are, for the most part, fictitious examples (Moral tales, and other compositions that combine the interest of a story with the conveying of instruction or the teaching of some practical lesson)." (Bain)

9. The allegory proper, the fable, and the parable, agree in not claiming 'to be the truth,' but merely 'vehicles' of the truth. The fable and the parable are distinguished chiefly by this difference; the fable recounts what is impossible if literally interpreted; the parable is generally literally possibly. This distinction does not hold with those who use the words without discrimination. (Hill)

10. The Parable, one form of the allegory, is properly the exhibition of a religious truth by means of facts from nature and human life. It is not to be supposed that the statements are historically true; they are offered only as a means of conveying a higher general truth. They are, however, always true to nature; the laws of the nature of the different beings introduced are strictly observed, and the events are such as might have taken place. (Waddy)

11. Comparison by continued Resemblance... The classical use of the word was for one of the subdivisions of paradeigma, "an example," "viz," a presentation of an analogous case by way of illustration. (Bullinger, 743)

12. PARABLES are short accounts of something real or supposed, used by our Lord in illustration or enforcement of his teaching. (Kellog, 213)


2. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. (Mt 19.24 qtd. in Garrett Epp)

2. For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Mt 12.40 qtd. in Garrett Epp)

3. " Unlike what happens in the palaestra, where he who receives the flaming torch is swifter in the relay race than he who hands it on, the new general who receives command of an army is not superior to the general who retires
from its command. For in the one case it is an
exhausted runner who hands the torch to a fresh
athlete, whereas in this it is an experienced commander who hands over the army to an inexperienced." (Ad Herennium)

3. " Neither can an untrained horse, however well-built by nature, be fit for the services desired of a horse, nor can an uncultivated man, however well-endowed by nature, attain to virtue." (Ad Herennium)

3. "In maintaining a friendship, as in a footrace, you must train yourself not only so that you succeed in running as far as is required, but so that, extending yourself by will and sinew, you easily run beyond that point." (Ad Herennium)

4. As a vessel cannot be known, whether it be whole or broken, except it have liquor in it: so no man can be throughly known what he is, before he be in authority. (JG Smith)

5. ((10) similitudo (comparison)) ... just as a ship is engulfed in the rising seas because of one crack no less than of many - both dangers have the same destructive effect. (Vinsauf)

6. "Statius, lamenting the death of a young lady, says, 'How happy had thy days been multiply'd / And thou hadst seen thy children round thee smile / in youthful vigour! But, alas, thy joys / Were blasted in the morning of thy life. / So the pale lilies hang their wither'd heads, / Thus roses die beneath the chilling blast, / And vi'lets, purple daughters of the spring, / Breathe out their fragrant lives into the air.'" (Gibbons)

7 b) The most familiar examples of the parable are those in the Sacred Scriptures. (De Mille)

8. "In the parable which Nathan relates to David, to make him realize the wickedness of his conduct, a supposed case is presented, setting forth David's offence as committed by another, with a change of circumstances--the object unlawfully taken being a ewe instead of a wife." (Bain)

10. "The Prodigal Son," "The Sower," "The Ten Virgins," are allegorical tales in Scripture, which were introduced for the purpose of illustrating a truth to which they have a similitude. (Waddy

Kind Of Similarity
Part Of
Related Figures paradigma, icon, metaphor, simile, allegory, Figures of Amplification
Notes TYPE OF COMPARISON Bede calls it a kind of homoeosis.
Confidence Unconfident
Last Editor Ioanna Malton
Confidence Unconfident
Editorial Notes Please review help file for instructions regarding example field. Please include "Type".
Reviewed No