Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Either or both of the upright curved lines, ( ), used to mark off explanatory or qualifying remarks in writing or printing or enclose a sum, product, or other expression considered or treated as a collective entity in a mathematical operation.
  • n. A qualifying or amplifying word, phrase, or sentence inserted within written matter in such a way as to be independent of the surrounding grammatical structure.
  • n. A comment departing from the theme of discourse; a digression.
  • n. An interruption of continuity; an interval: "This is one of the things I wasn't prepared for—the amount of unfilled time, the long parentheses of nothing” ( Margaret Atwood).

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A clause, phrase or word which is inserted (usually for explanation or amplification) into a passage which is already grammatically complete, and usually marked off with brackets, commas or dashes.
  • n. Either of a pair of brackets, especially round brackets, ( and ) (used to enclose parenthetical material in a text).
  • n. A digression; the use of such digressions.
  • n. Such brackets as used to clarify expressions by grouping those terms affected by a common operator, or to enclose the components of a vector or the elements of a matrix.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A word, phrase, or sentence, by way of comment or explanation, inserted in, or attached to, a sentence which would be grammatically complete without it. It is usually inclosed within curved lines (see def. 2 below), or dashes.
  • n. One of the curved lines () which inclose a parenthetic word or phrase.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. An explanatory or qualifying clause, sentence, or paragraph inserted in another sentence or in the course of a longer passage, without being grammatically connected with it.
  • n. The upright curves ( ) collectively, or either of them separately, used by printers and writers to mark off an interjected explanatory clause or qualifying remark: as, to place a word or clause in parenthesis or within parentheses.
  • n. An interval; a break; an episode.
  • n. Abbreviated par.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. either of two punctuation marks (or) used to enclose textual material
  • n. a message that departs from the main subject

Etymologies

Late Latin, insertion of a letter or syllable in a word, from Greek, from parentithenai, to insert : para-, beside; see para-1 + en-, in; see en in Indo-European roots + tithenai, to put; see dhē- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Either indirectly via Middle French parenthese or directly from Late Latin parenthesis ("addition of a letter to a syllable in a word"), from Ancient Greek παρένθεσις (parenthesis), from παρεντίθημι (parentithēmi, "I put in beside, mix up"), from παρά (para, "beside") + ἐν (en, "in") + τίθημι (tithēmi, "put, place") (from Proto-Indo-European base *dhe- "to put, to do"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

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