Printable Version
Pronunciation: pahr-lêr Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A drawing-room in a private home kept for entertaining visitors and special occasions. 2. A specialized business, like a funeral parlor, massage parlor, ice-cream parlor.

Notes: Remember that in British English this word is spelled parlour, like labour, colour, and flavour. This word is a unique lexical orphan. Except as the name of different types of businesses, the whims of fashion have almost carried it away.

In Play: Parlors are often special rooms with special furniture saved for special days and not used every day: "Sheila Blige always takes her boyfriends to the parlor to make out, because her parents would be less likely to catch them there." A 'parlor trick' is a piece of easily seen-through trickery: "Calling the inheritance tax a 'death' tax is a typical political parlor trick."

Word History: Today's Good Word has a long, long historical trail. It originated as French parloir "visitor's (talking) room, as in a hospital or prison, parlor". Parloir comes from parler "to talk, speak", which English also borrowed as parley. It presumably was a reduction of Vulgar Latin paraulare "to speak", itself a reduction of Late Latin parabolare "to speak in parables". This verb was based on Classical Latin parabola "comparison, parable", the source, too, of English parable. The Latin word was borrowed from Greek, which created it by matching para "beside, near, along" + bole "throw, cast, beam". Bole came from PIE gwel-/gwol- "to throw, flow", which went into the making of Greek ballein "to throw" and ballizein "to dance", Sanskrit galati "drips, falls down", German Quelle "spring, source", English qualm and quell, and, perhaps, Dutch kwal "medusa jellyfish". (Now a show of gratitude to Wordmaster David Myer, a contributor since 2011, for today's simple but complicated Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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