Definition of fable in English:



  • 1A short story, typically with animals as characters, conveying a moral.

    • ‘One animal in these fables is as clever as the fox, wise as the owl, and diplomatic as the rabbit.’
    • ‘The Bible, in keeping with other ancient Near Eastern cultures, includes a book of proverbs, and in the Book of Kings we read of the parable of the trees who gathered to elect a king - a natural rather than an animal fable.’
    • ‘Children were once told fairytales, myths, legends and fables because they had a meaning, a moral or a special psychological relevance.’
    • ‘The Nun's Priest tells one of the best tales, a beast fable with a moral lesson.’
    • ‘Corvids such as Crows, Ravens, and Jackdaws were more complex characters in Aesop's fables because they could be both vain and foolish, a powerful combination to be sure.’
    • ‘By placing extreme emphasis on the moral of each tale, stories such as the tale of Sukanya and Sunisa and the Aesop's fables seek to foster a particular code of behavior and attitudes in the children of Thai immigrants.’
    • ‘It's an odd but satisfying little fable about loss and loneliness.’
    • ‘Buddha Stories is a collection of animal fables that teach the moral principles of Buddhism.’
    • ‘The book is an anthology of moral fables told by mystics such as Ramakrishna and Ramana Maharshi: an interesting idea for a collection.’
    • ‘These fables are clearly stories because they not only lay out propositions about the world but also meet the narrative requirement of storytelling - moralising closure.’
    • ‘This reminds me of the moral from an Aesop fable about a scorpion that gets a ride across a river on the back of a frog, but stings the frog to death before they get to the other side.’
    • ‘The folktales include stories about animals, fairy tales, fables with moral lessons, Buddhist legends, and stories about historical figures.’
    • ‘Likewise the use of animals as human stand-ins turns the tales into Aesop-like fables with a modern, existential twist.’
    • ‘Children are irresistibly drawn to stories, and we use them to instill all the most important ideas about the human community, its daily dangers and rules, plus moral fables about how to succeed and be happy.’
    • ‘Some things, it seems, never change for the entrepreneur who appears to relish his role in a strange high-tech version of that old fable, The Boy Who Cried Wolf.’
    • ‘In The Phaedrus Plato recounts a fable whose moral is the bad effects of writing, a moral deriving from the choice he makes in thinking to resolve the dilemma that writing poses.’
    • ‘In the 6th century BCE the Greek author Aesop wrote his timeless fables - short narratives in which animals are the central characters and the aim is to convey a moral message.’
    • ‘This lesson through gods and legends is a fable for adults regarding faith and truth in oneself.’
    • ‘They also appear, imbued with human attributes, in myths and fables, making them key agents in the teaching of indigenous manners and codes of behavior.’
    • ‘However even if we doubt the validity of the morals proposed, crude fables frequently remain eloquent pieces of short prose.’
    moral tale, parable, apologue, allegory, bestiary
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    1. 1.1A story, typically a supernatural one incorporating elements of myth and legend.
      • ‘As feminist fable, the film is tart, evocative, intelligent.’
      • ‘But what these two mean to each other far transcends any conventional love story-or any sentimental fable of an attachment between two lost souls.’
      • ‘This is not a Hollywood rag to riches fable; it's a real story about a real man.’
      • ‘Wings Of Desire, his poetic 1987 fable about guardian angels watching over Berlin, remains one of the most successful European productions in cinema history.’
      • ‘Patience, which premiered at Toronto's Tarragon Theatre in 1998, is a wry modern fable loosely inspired by the Book of Job.’
      • ‘However, no fable or legend was nearly as fantastic as the one told by the stranger who fell from the sky.’
      • ‘The story lays out a fable of the American Dream lost.’
      • ‘The novel could be a kind of myth or fable of the afterlife for the 20th century.’
      • ‘A similar loss (a mother lost) brings a little boy into the care of his distant uncle in Seth's film fable Passage to Ottawa: a coming of age film with a great performance by the young leading character.’
      • ‘It's meant as a fable, with elements of parody and literary criticism thrown in by the author to keep everybody guessing.’
      • ‘Ultimately, the moralism of Veber's fable becomes slightly cloying, as the film suggests that a simple change in perspective from time to time is enough to make that stultifying job at the plant more bearable.’
      • ‘It is apt that Virgo frames his story like a fable, as all melodrama has its origins in morality plays and/or folk tales.’
      • ‘The characters in my fable are modern-day versions of Galileo, Newton, and Leibniz.’
      • ‘His stories were enigmatic fables set in the past, and could be understood as veiled political criticism.’
      • ‘In this fable peopled with a fantastic cast of royalty, servants and talking rodents, Despereaux falls in love with a human princess and sets out to save her from danger.’
      • ‘. Her online papers on fables and myths of the mobile telecom industry are fascinating, and not least because of her creative approach to ethnographic writing.’
      • ‘This is not a thriller nor a horror story but a fable; despite some of its 20th century trappings, it exists in the world of the Brothers Grimm, one remove from any identifiable time or place.’
      • ‘By comparison, Phil Alden Robinson's Field Of Dreams is a far more stirring yet gentle sporting fable, a hymn to self-belief that continues to inspire.’
      • ‘Here's a story - a fable, really - of a noble company and its difficult encounters with a fickle, fast-moving world.’
      • ‘The only British actress to be nominated for an Oscar this year is luminous and touching in Jim Sheridan's immigrant fable.’
      myth, legend, saga, epic, folk tale, folk story, traditional story, tale, story, fairy tale, narrative, romance
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    2. 1.2Myth and legend.
      ‘the unnatural monsters of fable’
      • ‘Wherever you go in Western France you follow in the footsteps of history, shadowed by myth and legend, with fable and fairy tale snapping at your heels.’
      • ‘Perhaps it's a little too oversimplified - but isn't that the heart of fable and myth… a simple story with a deeper message?’
      myth, legend, fairy tale, romance
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    3. 1.3A false statement or belief.
      • ‘Such convincing will be difficult; the poor have always been told precisely that fable.’
      • ‘‘That's another fable they've come up with,’ corrected Kuklinski.’
      • ‘The personal fable reflects the mistaken belief that one's feelings and experiences are uniquely different from those of others.’
      • ‘Then came the latest of the many myths that constitute the fable of the modern American presidency.’
      • ‘I really don't know anything about The Beach Boys other than the fables and tired myths that surround their bandleader.’


[NO OBJECT]archaic
  • 1 Tell fictitious tales.

    ‘I do not dream nor fable’
    • ‘Poets may fable of such a will, that it makes the very heavens conform to it.’
    • ‘The wealth of entrepreneurs and capitalists is, whatever the anticapitalistic demagogues may fable, so much inferior to that of kings and princes that they cannot indulge in such luxurious construction.’
    • ‘For a ‘tale, taken from… facts,’ Castle Rackrent's fabling and didacticism are remarkably insistent and cohesive.’
    1. 1.1[with object]Fabricate or invent (an incident, person, or story)
      • ‘The story may be fabled but the lessons to be learned from Wotan's casual flings are utterly human.’
      • ‘Soon our valley in Somerset was fabled as a kind of nymph-strewn Arcadia.’
      • ‘Many claim a Scottish born fashion photographer is fabled in his field for taking pictures of celebrities.’
      • ‘I went to the fabled Bunny Deli - fabled by me, at least; I've put it in many things I've written.’
      • ‘No, not for those reasons, though he was certain she'd be fabled in those areas as well, but for something even greater about her.’


Middle English: from Old French fable (noun), from Latin fabula story from fari speak.