Definition of parcel in US English:


nounPlural parcels

  • 1A thing or collection of things wrapped in paper in order to be carried or sent by mail.

    • ‘They found Tom Fisher standing there holding a large parcel wrapped in brown paper.’
    • ‘Mr Davies said people sending parcels containing suspicious or illegal substances often paid extra for postage to prevent further weighing or postal service checks.’
    • ‘Others have received parcels sent for free by their families at home.’
    • ‘One day, being in the Alcala at Toledo, I saw a young lad offer to sell a parcel of old written papers to a shopkeeper.’
    • ‘We have also heard from people who used the post office to send parcels and things, so we are determined to have one in the village.’
    • ‘Lans walked over to his bed, and picked up the parcel of paper.’
    • ‘She held out a plain, brown paper parcel to him, roughly tied with string still dripping in bacon fat.’
    • ‘She fished into her pocket until she pulled out a tiny parcel of tissue paper.’
    • ‘Just 4 feet 10 inches tall and weighing a little over six stones, she had a special trolley provided by the Post Office to help carry the heavy parcels and letters around.’
    • ‘Also, colonists were sending their parcels through the post without stamps.’
    • ‘I cannot find your address in our back up folders, please could you send it to us, and we will put the parcel in the post today.’
    • ‘Viewers on either side of the world now share knowledge of these soft white papers, delicately wrapped parcels and small metal plates, the same shape as calling cards and full of curious codes.’
    • ‘It was a tiny box wrapped in plan brown parcel paper and tied with twine.’
    • ‘Here, town people can bring their own livestock to be slaughtered and then returned to them in paper parcels.’
    • ‘Mac had the car door open, and was walking towards the van, a bunch of flowers in his hands, and the wrapped parcel under one arm.’
    • ‘Helen's mouth fell open in disbelief as he handed her a small parcel wrapped in brown paper.’
    • ‘I collected a parcel from the post office, went shopping amongst the madness of Beirut.’
    • ‘The mother of a soldier with the British troops in Iraq is appealing for help to collect and send parcels of goodies to the servicemen and women there.’
    • ‘Every part of the postal business lost huge amounts of money last year, including UK parcels, Royal Mail, international mail and parcels and the post office network.’
    • ‘In the end I did choose to use the Royal Mail service which enables you to collect the parcel from a local post office for a fee of 50p.’
    package, packet
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  • 2A quantity or amount of something, especially as dealt with in one commercial transaction.

    ‘a parcel of shares’
    • ‘Therefore, why don't a few members of the 15,000-strong Crikey army buy a small parcel of News Corp shares and give us there proxies.’
    • ‘Big charities can bundle share parcels together, making them much more valuable.’
    • ‘Large parcels of shares in the Prince Alfred mine were held by John Reynell of Reynella and his son Walter.’
    • ‘What has happened in these two cases essentially is that the shares in the preference class have been valued in the way that minority parcels of shares are valued on the market when no takeover offer is in contemplation.’
    • ‘I doubt many readers will be in that bracket, but thousands of small share parcels may also go unclaimed.’
    • ‘Many stock-market investors own small parcels of shares that they hang on to purely because it would cost more to sell them than they are worth.’
    • ‘Just before you begin, Mr Shaw, I understand the parties have been informed that I hold a small parcel of shares in Publishing and Broadcasting Limited.’
    • ‘They are far from pleased that the issue has dragged on for seven years since the first parcel of shares was sold off immediately after Howard won government in 1996.’
    • ‘ABN Amro Craig's Matt Willis said this was not an excessive discount, given the size of the parcel of shares.’
    • ‘Standard Life policyholders are likely to be offered parcels of shares in the flotation of the insurance giant next year as it claims support for the conversion is now ahead of the required threshold.’
    • ‘In fact, what happened - there is a parcel of ANZ shares and there are parcels of other shares, and so he took, as we understand it, half of those shares and his brother took the other half.’
    group, band, pack, gang, crowd, mob, company, collection, horde, party, troop
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    1. 2.1 A piece of land, especially one considered as part of an estate.
      • ‘In recognition of his spearmen he gave them each a parcel of land in the area.’
      • ‘There are other parcels of land beneficially held by the estate, which the trustee acknowledges are not integral to the businesses.’
      • ‘Stark says the turn of events is disappointing, and notes the land was the largest parcel in the area that doesn't require rezoning, a process that could take a couple of years.’
      • ‘Farmers will also be able to print maps of their land parcels which they can use solely for Area Aid purposes.’
      • ‘Holdouts are dealt with by real estate developers assembling parcels of land in a variety of ways.’
      • ‘Suppose you owned a large parcel of land, which includes a large wooded area, home to an endanger species of owl.’
      • ‘Through hard work and perseverance he acquired a good parcel of land and farmed it for some sixty years.’
      • ‘Evans said the other 17-acre parcel has generated some offers, but no contracts.’
      • ‘The legal estate of two separate parcels of land at Baydon Farm amounting to some 184 acres and some 108 acres vested in Major Stibbard prior to his death.’
      • ‘For many years he farmed a small parcel of land in Kilcolman and came to the local Kilcolman creamery with his donkey and cart.’
      • ‘At Wild Turkey, which opened in June, Rulewich had to piece together several distinct parcels of land into one seamless golf course.’
      • ‘Curtilages and tenters were parcels of open land, probably used for some kind of industrial or artisan activity.’
      • ‘Farming a small parcel of land on the side of Kockanore Hill Jerry earned a great reputation for his fine garden.’
      • ‘A land-use feasibility study commissioned by the Central Sydney Area Health Service identified three parcels of land that could be sold.’
      • ‘A lot of it was due to shrewd real estate acquisitions, anticipating property trends and securing key parcels of land for low prices.’
      • ‘The Countryside Agency claimed a partial victory because of the two parcels of land declared open countryside.’
      • ‘Such territories were sufficiently significant by the eighth century that most references to estates, tenant houses, and land parcels in our documents are explicitly attached to a village.’
      • ‘Civil 3D includes a variety of tools to subdivide tracts of land into parcels with predefined areas.’
      • ‘When a parcel of real estate is being evaluated for possible purchase, use the assessment as an informational resource.’
      • ‘Farming a small parcel of land Tom made a big name for himself as a water diviner with his services in big demand throughout the county.’
      plot, piece, patch, tract, area, section, allotment
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    2. 2.2technical A portion of a larger body of air or other fluid considered as a discrete element.
      ‘an inversion forms a barrier to a rising parcel of air’
      • ‘The air parcel, however, has mass and therefore weight.’
      • ‘For example, if the sun warms a parcel of air, the liquid water molecules speed up and become vapor, so evaporation dominates.’
      • ‘Because the air in the parcel now occupies more space, it has a lower density than the relatively cooler air parcels.’
      • ‘Air parcels at higher heights over the equator are accelerated down the gradient toward the pole by the force of gravity.’
      • ‘The energy of all systems is quantized, that is, energy can be absorbed or released in discrete parcels or packets.’

verbparcels, parcelled, parcelling, parceled, parceling

[with object]
  • 1Make (something) into a parcel by wrapping it.

    ‘he parceled up the goods and sent them back’
    • ‘Playboy has already parcelled up packages of programming to suit consumers' individual tastes in each region of the world, based on experience from selling porn on pay-per-view services.’
    • ‘You parcel up the boxes again: nothing has been quenched.’
    • ‘She parceled it up and set it on the nightstand to remind her to send it.’
    • ‘Each present must be brand new and unwrapped - this will help care managers to organise the gifts before parcelling them up and giving them to the children.’
    • ‘The food on the display table was parcelled for home, the buses pulled in to take the students away, the teachers, chefs and their guests smiled at the good of it all.’
    • ‘I've just parcelled my first bit of ripped up junkmail back in its prepaid envelope and sent it back from whence it came.’
    • ‘Whatever was put in the players' Bovril at half time should be parcelled up and sold as a post-Christmas tonic.’
    • ‘This is a complete illusion, as you're not clearing your debt, you're simply parcelling it up and handing it to a different lender!’
    • ‘We parcelled up the goods, my friend opened her purse and quietly put the same amount of money into the packet.’
    • ‘The hoard had been buried in a lead chest, fragments of which survive, and the presence of small bone pins suggests that some of the coins or bullion had been parcelled up into separate bags or parcels, secured by these pins.’
    • ‘Our children are now being tested at six (and seven, and eight…) not just 16, parcelled up as either academic or non-academic when they are barely out of the sandpit.’
    • ‘Those who do have to move will undergo traumatic shock and this needs to be taken into account before parcelling them up and shipping them out.’
    • ‘The first memory has long since been parcelled up with my childhood, folded neatly away when my grandmother died eight years ago.’
    • ‘Firstly, either cut up the credit cards or parcel them up and put them away.’
    • ‘I parcelled them up and gave them to my local Member of Parliament to ask the government to consider holding a referendum on whether New Zealand should introduce Capital Punishment.’
    • ‘It's an incredible bit of work, and I've parcelled up our top secret plans and sent them to the Ministry of Defence who will no doubt see me as the next Barnes Wallace and get British Aerospace onto it with all due haste.’
    • ‘‘They have to be parcelled up and sent by taxi which is ludicrous in this day and age,’ he said’
    • ‘He didn't even skim through looking for blindingly obvious spelling mistakes; he just parcelled it up and shipped it out.’
    • ‘I might parcel a bit up and send it back to the authorities and demand a refund on my council tax.’
    • ‘One consultant said that Iraqi contractors would win work from the US or the military, parcel it up and sell it in the city's market, taking a slice for themselves.’
    pack, pack up, package, wrap, wrap up, gift-wrap, tie up, do up, box, box up, bundle up, fasten together
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    1. 1.1parcel something out Divide into portions and then distribute.
      ‘they will start parceling out radio frequencies for digital cordless telephones’
      • ‘It provides 85 percent of the state budget and is the basis of the state's optimistically named Permanent Fund, whose dividends are parceled out annually: Last fall, every man, woman and child in Alaska received a check for US $1,963.86.’
      • ‘Beaches are parceled out along a convoluted coastline equal to France's in length, and islands range from backwaters where the boat calls twice a week to resorts as cosmopolitan as any in the Mediterranean.’
      • ‘Rice paddies in varying states of cultivation are parceled out in crazy-quilt patterns.’
      • ‘In 1937, cottages expropriated to make way for the airport were floated across to Algonquin Island, and after WWII, the remainder of Algonquin was parcelled out to vets and their families to deal with a housing shortage.’
      • ‘In New York, families of fire-fighters and other victims argue over how vast compensation packages are parcelled out.’
      • ‘An aging King Lear is parcelling his land out among his daughters.’
      • ‘Perhaps the idea is that if you parcel something out into shares, everyone gets a different piece; and therefore it makes sense to talk about A and B sharing properties X and Y, where you mean that A gets X and B gets Y.’
      • ‘But how can the 21% figure be parceled out individually to each factor?’
      • ‘Joyce's material was parcelled out to friends and associates during the war to keep it safe from the Gestapo.’
      • ‘My company doesn't have a risk-management model, per se - and then blame is typically parceled out to the lowest common denominator.’
      • ‘The big bomber comprised more than 100,000 parts, and construction was parceled out to several companies.’
      • ‘When the money was redistributed among each organization, it was parceled out and divided into 20 equal shares.’
      • ‘Examples abound of cosy sinecures being parcelled out to those who have served in constitutional posts.’
      • ‘Because the orders are likely to have been parcelled out among various brokers, it is difficult to assess the scope of China's problem.’
      • ‘Obviously there are already many signs of this but do you think the future of the internet (and technology in general) will be parceled out to the highest bidder, like radio?’
      • ‘The indicator was then parceled out to the progeny neurons as the injected cell underwent the cell divisions as the animal developed.’
      • ‘Wealth is still to be parceled out by the state in ways unrelated to production - according to social justice.’
      • ‘In North Africa, meager amounts of air cover were parceled out to each ground commander.’
      • ‘And since the land is being parceled out piecemeal, each project will be a lurid, fenced-in recreation of First World living conditions in Third World surroundings.’
      • ‘It's a job-share the whole way, between consciousness and automaticity, with attention being parcelled out in a few large and many tiny chunks.’
      divide up, portion out, distribute, share out, allocate, allot, apportion, hand out, give out, deal out, dole out, mete out, dispense, split up, carve up
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  • 2Nautical
    Wrap (rope) with strips of tarred canvas, before binding it with yarn as part of a traditional technique to reduce chafing.


  • pass the parcel

    • A children's game in which a parcel is passed around to the accompaniment of music, the child holding the parcel when the music stops being allowed to unwrap a layer.

      • ‘It is little wonder that we have this sort of chaos within the building industry when that is the sort of game of pass the parcel that this Labour Cabinet plays in its approach to building issues.’
      • ‘A game of pass the parcel developed, the loser being the diver holding the balloon when it popped.’
      • ‘‘It was a case of pass the parcel,’ said the civil servant.’
      • ‘Wilde's epigrams slip from character to character like a game of pass the parcel and significant moments flutter helplessly alongside the frivolous, until it all starts to sound the same.’
      • ‘So we spent the afternoon in isolation in our bedroom, dreaming of pass the parcel and Punch and Judy and paedophile alcoholic magicians pulling rabbits out of hats.’
      • ‘The children are excited about the party and there will be plenty of fun and games, including pass the parcel and a treasure hunt, and we will also be having a visit from Father Christmas.’
      • ‘About 30 youngsters had been dancing and playing games like pass the parcel and bingo when the gunman walked in.’
      • ‘We bring in traditional games like pass the parcel and pin the tail on the donkey - but we relate them to the theme.’
      • ‘After he has extracted himself from the room full of children, he is relieved to remove his hat and beard; he's feeling rather hot after the children's party games of pass the parcel and musical statues.’
      • ‘The result was that possession felt decidedly temporary, leading to a frenetic attempt to score in one phase with every use of the ball, which usually deteriorated into an unsightly version of pass the parcel.’


Late Middle English (chiefly in the sense ‘small portion’): from Old French parcelle, from Latin particula ‘small part’.