Fable, parable, and allegory
Thursday, December 13, 2018

Fable, parable, and allegory

Stack Exchange Network

Stack Exchange network consists of 174 Q&A communities including Stack Overflow , the largest, most trusted online community for developers to learn, share their knowledge, and build their careers.

Visit Stack Exchange

  1. Log In
    Sign Up

  2. current community

    • English Language & Usage


    • English Language & Usage Meta

    your communities

    Sign up or log in to customize your list.

    more stack exchange communities

    company blog

    • Tour

      Start here for a quick overview of the site

    • Help Center

      Detailed answers to any questions you might have

    • Meta

      Discuss the workings and policies of this site

    • About Us

      Learn more about Stack Overflow the company

    • Business

      Learn more about hiring developers or posting ads with us

By using our site, you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Cookie Policy , Privacy Policy , and our Terms of Service .

English Language & Usage

English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up

Here’s how it works:

Anybody can ask a question

Anybody can answer

The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

What’s the difference between a fable and a parable?

Ask Question

up vote
down vote



Does either imply a lesson, or a fantastical setting?

word-choice nouns

share | improve this question

edited Oct 8 ’10 at 12:35



asked Sep 17 ’10 at 1:56



add a comment  | 

5 Answers




up vote
down vote


My understanding is that a fable involves (speaking) animals or other mythical creatures, while a parable does not. A moral is typical for both genres.

Wikipedia is more accurate in its wording:

A fable is a succinct story, in prose or verse, that features animals, mythical creatures, plants, inanimate objects, or forces of nature which are anthropomorphized (given human qualities), and that illustrates a moral lesson (a “moral”), which may at the end be expressed explicitly in a pithy maxim.

A parable is a brief, succinct story, in prose or verse, that illustrates a moral or religious lesson. It differs from a fable in that fables use animals, plants, inanimate objects, and forces of nature as characters, while parables generally feature human characters. It is a type of analogy.

Merriam-Webster basically agrees, but has a few points to add:

parable : example; specifically: a usually short fictitious story that illustrates a moral attitude or a religious principle

fable : a fictitious narrative or statement: as

a: a legendary story of supernatural happenings

b: a narration intended to enforce a useful truth; especially: one in which animals speak and act like human beings

c: falsehood, lie

share | improve this answer

edited Sep 17 ’10 at 2:12

answered Sep 17 ’10 at 2:02



  • I think the key distinction is that a parable is religious while a fable is not. I have never heard the term "parable" used outside of a religious setting.
    –  alcas
    Sep 5 ’12 at 1:41

add a comment  | 

up vote
down vote

My observations – not an authority’s formal definitions:

The most famous fables (Aesop’s) all feature animal protagonists, but I don’t believe that has ever been a requirement, Wikipedia notwithstanding. Any fictitious story with an implied or explicit moral, or lesson, and which is obviously contrived for the purpose of communicating that moral or lesson can be referred to as a fable. Example: http://www.userfocus.co.uk/fable/index.html

A parable is not necessarily contrived, but usually contains a relatively specific analogy. A fable is more vague and illustrates a more general principle or concept. The parables in the New Testament (per my poor memory) are all things that “could have actually happened like that”.

Edit: Apparently the root of “parable” is from the Greek “to compare”, so a specific analogy is definitely implied.

share | improve this answer

edited Sep 18 ’10 at 0:47

answered Sep 17 ’10 at 3:00



  • You have a point, one of my favorite video games is "Fable" , which is all about people, or a story of one man. It does feature quite a few mythical creatures, but they are not really central to the story or to any of the lessons you might or might not end taking from it. However, even this video game is still nicely covered by Merriam-Webster ("a fictitious narrative, as a legendary story of supernatural happenings"), as is that book you linked to ("a narration intended to enforce a useful truth").
    –  RegDwigнt
    Sep 17 ’10 at 13:53

add a comment  | 

up vote
down vote

Fables are stories that feature animals, plants, or forces of nature that have been given human qualities.

They teach moral and ethical lessons, like how to behave or how to treat people.

Since the main characters are animals, they are a good way to introduce serious topics to children. Each animal represents a particular human fault or virtue, and what happens in the story is directly related to the animal’s personality.

Parables also teach moral and ethical lessons, but they only have human characters.

They are set in the real world, with realistic problems and results. They often have spiritual aspects.

So what would a story be that features a human interacting with a talking animal? A fable, since parables exclude unrealistic things like chatty foxes.

share | improve this answer

answered Jul 21 ’14 at 7:53



add a comment  | 

up vote
down vote

Both teach moral lessons, however fables usually have animals and plants behaving like humans. Parable are more like giant metaphors were each aspect of the story represents something in real life

share | improve this answer

answered Jan 8 ’15 at 1:36

Daniel Ma


add a comment  | 

up vote
down vote

both the fable and parable has equal elements such as the setting, symbolism and gives a moral message but the only thing is that a fable uses animals and the parables include humans. but it is to note that fables are mostly read by children and the animal characters could live in them so that the message is easily grasped.

share | improve this answer

answered May 25 ’15 at 13:30



add a comment  | 

Not the answer you’re looking for? Browse other questions tagged word-choice nouns or ask your own question .


8 years, 2 months ago


31,889 times


3 years ago


Welcome Wagon: Community and Comments on Stack Overflow



What are the differences between “allegories”, “fables” and “parables”?



What’s the difference between “kind” and “type”?


What’s the difference between i.e. and that is?


What’s the difference between patent and obvious?


What’s the difference between “licensing” and “licensure?”


what’s the difference between “custom” and “practice”?


What’s the difference between “incoherence” and “inconsistency”?


What’s the difference between “imply” and “hint”?


What’s the difference between “helpful” and “useful”?


What’s the difference between a goal and a ‘must’


What’s the difference between manful and manly?

Hot Network Questions

  • How to understand "I had two try"

  • Is it acceptable to publish student names with the label ‘stupid question’, on a publicly-visible website?

  • As a course lecturer, should I excuse late assignment submissions if I wrote the assignment deadline slightly wrong?

  • Did I just discover this integration formula?

  • How to replace a string when another string is found in a line?

  • Why did J. K. Rowling choose to downplay dragons?

  • Can an uncountable group have a countable number of subgroups?

  • P Pr Pre Pref Prefi Prefix Prefixe Prefixes

  • On Noetherian schemes

  • are quotients by equivalence relations "better" than surjections?

  • Why aren’t Republicans more focused on mobilizing a movement towards ‘dethroning’ Trump?

  • 50% O₂ 25% Neon 23% Nitrogen and 3% trace gasses?

  • Eternal space battle around a planet. But why?

  • Why not a "live" visual connection with Curiosity on Mars all the time?

  • Do historians agree that most wars are caused by religion?

  • Number that can eat itself

  • How to handle being asked to automate jobs as a temp worker

  • Is RSA provably secure in the sense of Douglas Stinson’s “provable security”?

  • Is there any specific law outlawing private nuclear weapons?

  • How do I tweak this crouching rule to balance it?

  • My advisor’s new student copied parts of my PhD thesis; advisor doesn’t care. What to do?

  • Falcon 9: engines stabilize spin

  • Problem with the pst-eucl package?

  • Modify the header and footer

more hot questions

question feed

English Language & Usage Stack Exchange works best with JavaScript enabled


Compare and Discern the Clear Difference Between Any Similar Things

Home » Difference Between Fable and Parable

Difference Between Fable and Parable

Posted by

Fable vs Parable

We all grow up listening to fables and parables from our grandparents and reading these stories from story books meant for kids. We think we know the differences between a fable and a parable though it is hard for most of us to tell these differences. Both are short stories that carry a message or a moral for the reader or listener. They could also be about a universal truth, virtue, or any other concept. This article tries to highlight the differences between fables and parables.


Fable is a very short story containing talking animals or forces of nature and one that teaches us a moral lesson. Often the moral of the story is expressed at the end of the story to make children learn a lot from the short story. Aesop’s fables are the most famous fables around the world though Jatak Kathayein from Budhism and Panchatantra written by Vishnu Sharma in Hindu religion are also very popular fables. Even epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata contain fables within them that are very good moral lessons for people till today.

Talking animals, plants and other inanimate objects are chief characteristics of fables, the best examples of which are The Fox and the Grapes and the Ant and the Grasshopper.


Parable is a short story that teaches a moral lesson to the reader or listener. Parables contain human characters only, and they are drawn from real world situations with real problems and real struggles of people. They also have spiritual flavors. The Good Samaritan and The Prodigal Son are two of the most well-known parables from the Gospel. The word parable comes from the Greek Parabole which means to draw comparison or analogy. One can learn how to behave and react when faced with a dilemma in real life situations as these parables teach by comparing the actions and behaviors of characters in them.

What is the difference between Fable and Parable?

• Both parables and fables are short stories containing moral lessons for the readers but, whereas parables contain human characters only, fables are known to have talking-animals and plant with even super natural forces.

• Fables are set in an imaginary world, whereas parables have real humans facing the real world problems.

• Parables often have spiritual or religious aspect, whereas fables stay away from religion.

• Tortoise and the Hare and The Fox and the grapes are some of the most popular fables whereas The Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan are examples of most popular parables.

• There are also secular parables such as The Emperor’s New Clothes.

Leave a Reply Cancel reply

Request Article

Featured Posts

Difference Between Alzheimers and Dementia

Difference Between Alzheimers and Dementia

Difference Between Which and What

Difference Between Which and What

Difference Between To and For in English Grammar

Difference Between To and For in English Grammar

Difference Between Then and Than in English Grammar

Difference Between Then and Than in English Grammar

You May Like

Difference Between Tea Party and Republicans

Difference Between Tea Party and Republicans

Difference Between Micro ATX and Mini ITX

Difference Between Micro ATX and Mini ITX

Difference Between Philosophy and Theosophy

Difference Between Offer and Invitation

Difference Between Periods and Groups

Difference Between Periods and Groups

Latest Posts

  • Difference Between Hydrogen and Helium Emission Spectra
  • Difference Between CRP and Homocysteine
  • Difference Between Polyamory and Polygamy
  • Difference Between SiO2 and CO2
  • Difference Between Nephridia and Malpighian Tubules
  • Difference Between Cross Stitch and Embroidery
  • Home
  • Vacancies
  • About
  • Request Article
  • Contact Us