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Not to be confused with Parlay.

Parley /ˈpɑrli/ is a discussion or conference, especially one between enemies over terms of a truce or other matters. For example, in Julius Caesar (a tragedy by William Shakespeare), the respective followers and armies of Brutus and Antony are ready for a truce. The root of the word parley is parler, which is the French verb "to speak"; specifically the conjugation parlez "you speak", whether as imperative or indicative. Beginning in the High Middle Ages with the expansion of monarchs, a parley, or "talk", was a meeting held between kings and their Chief Retainers. Parleys were part of the many changes in Europe, especially regarding governments. These meetings can be attributed to the formation of parliaments, which are derived from a similar root, parliamentum, simply meaning "talking".

The internationally recognized symbol for offering parley is a black flag, particularly in the context of shipping. For example, a ship at war wishing to enter parley with its attackers may raise a black flag to indicate this.[1]

Popular culture references[edit]

The Pirates of the Caribbean film series refers to it as being part of the pirate code. The term was first used in the film Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003), when the protagonist Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) is captured by enemy pirates, although the movie franchise later spells the word incorrectly as Parlay. In other films of the series, most notably Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, the term is often used by Captain Jack Sparrow.

The term is used in season 1 of HBO's The Wire by Stringer Bell, Avon Barksdale, Proposition Joe and Omar when arranging a meeting between Stringer and Omar where both men needed assurances of their own safety.

In the Season 2 finale of FX's Justified, Boyd Crowder and Arlo Givens request a parley with Mags and Doyle Bennett and they meet in a church. The pastor of the church collects all of the weapons from them and then exits, and closes the church doors so they can have a private conversation.

In season 7 episode 10 of the US version of The Office, Dwight uses this term to arrange a meeting between Pam and himself. Creed then tells Pam that it's pirate code.

In season 7 episode 4 of Charmed, Phoebe uses this term when the pirates threaten to kill them. She refers to its use in Pirates of the Caribbean.

In "Percy Jackson and the last Olympian" by Richard Riordan (2009), when the titan Prometheus gives Percy Pandora's jar, to try to persuade him to give up hope.

In the first minutes of Django Unchained by Quentin Tarantino, Christoph Waltz as bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz wants to 'parley' with the slave traders. In reply they ask him to speak "English" to them.

In the Adventure Time season 5 episode "Wizards Only, Fools," Princess Bubblegum uses this term when she is captured by the Wizard City Police. She demands, as ruler of the Candy Kingdom, to speak with the Grand Master Wizard.

In League of Legends, Gangplank, one of two pirate characters, has an attack called Parrrley, a direct reference to parley.

In the video game SMITE there is a premium alternate skin for the playable god Tyr. When playing with this skin he states "Eeeh...parley?" when heavily wounded. This is a reference to the word being used in the Pirates of the Caribbean films.

Parley is also a band from the Central Coast of CA that was formed in 2006.


  1. ^ The Times newspaper, London, 27 May 2011