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Parley /ˈpɑːrli/ is a discussion or conference, especially one between enemies over terms of a truce or other matters. The root of the word parley is parler, which is the French verb "to speak"; specifically the conjugation parlez ("you speak"), whether 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".[citation needed]

During the 18th and 19th centuries, attacking an enemy during a parley was considered one of the grossest breaches of the rules of war. The British Army was accused of multiple parley violations during the American Revolutionary War, specifically arresting Continental Army officers engaged in negotiations as traitors in addition to hanging uniformed despatch riders as spies.[1]

Black flag[edit]

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.[2]

In art, entertainment, and media[edit]

Some examples are described below:

  • In William Shakespeare's tragedy Julius Caesar, the respective followers and armies of Brutus and Antony are ready for a truce.
  • In the Fear the Walking Dead episode, "The Unveiling", Jake Otto and Chief Qaletaqa Walker agree to parley, in order to spare bloodshed in their escalating feud over land. However, Madison Clark goads Troy Otto to violate the parley rules of engagement by leading a surreptitious "rescue mission" to extract Alicia from the Black Hat reservation. The rescuers are discovered, blood is shed, and the temporary truce is broken.[3]
  • In the Pirates of the Caribbean series, parley is a plot device introduced in the first film. Initially a rule, it is later revealed by Captain Barbossa to be one of many "guidelines" commonly adhered to by pirates.


  1. ^ Oller, John, The Swamp Fox: How Francis Marion Saved the American Revolution, Da Capo Press (Oct 2016)
  2. ^ "Title?". The Times. London. 27 May 2011. 
  3. ^ PenzeyMoog, Caitlin (July 9, 2017). "Fear The Walking Dead highlights how awful white people are". AV Club.