What does palaver (parable) mean and Where does the word “palaver” come from?

The Greek term for “parable” was parabole; literally, “a throwing beside,” from para, beside, and ball°, to throw.

But the Greek meaning of the compound word was “a placing beside”; hence, “a comparison,” and this is, of course, what we mean by parable, a comparison, in the form of an allegorical story, by which some moral is taught.

The recorded teachings of Jesus were often in the form of parables, for it was a favorite Hebrew device; the Book of Proverbs contains other examples. The term passed into Latin as parabola, and thence into the languages of the West.

Its Portuguese form was palavra, but when Portuguese traders carried the term to Africa in the fifteenth or sixteenth century, they extended its meaning to include the lengthy powwows with the chieftains that the native conventions required.

It was there, in the eighteenth century, that English traders encountered the word, though they understood it to be palaver.

We continue to use it with the meaning it acquired in Africa.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

Leave a Comment