The definition for "to parlay" is

to use or develop (something) to get something else that has greater value

Examples sentences are :

He hoped to parlay his basketball skills into a college scholarship.

She parlayed $5,000 and years of hard work into a multimillion-dollar company.

He hoped to drawn on his basketball skills to get a college scholarship.

She draw on $5,000 and years of hard work to create a multimillion-dollar company.

The definition for "to draw on " is :

to use (information, experience, knowledge, etc.) to make something

Examples sentence are :

I'll have to draw on my savings.

The novelist draws heavily on her personal experiences.

I'll have to parlay my savings.

The novelist parlay heavily her personal experiences.

Even though they are not changeable directly since they are used in different sentence structures, I wonder if they convey the almost same meaning and can be changeable in case we retouch the sentences above a bit. Another thing intrigued me that when I looked up the synonyms of the words which mean "to use" in general sense such as utilize, harness, employ or exploit , the verb "to parlay" never shows up as synonym. I wonder if it is because it sounds a bit old also?

P.S. : The sentences in bold are my sentences I tried to transform.


1 Answer 1


parlay (n.): 1701, parloi, term in the card game faro, from French paroli, from Italian parole (Neapolitan paroli) "words, promises," plural of parolo (see parole). Meaning "exploit to advantage" is from 1942.

Note "parlay" comes from gambling, so the implication of the verb form is to gamble something in the hope of gaining something more lucrative.

The meaning has since evolved to a wider definition that doesn't involve risk, but the original intent of the term still remains. The most common place most people will come across "parlay" is in gambling, where it means "to link together two or more individual wagers so that the result depends on all of those wagers winning together"

Meanwhile, to draw on feels related to the idiom "draw from", meaning to "to take" or "to remove from". Example:

She went down to the village square to draw water from the well

When it's your turn you must draw a new card from the deck (of cards)

To draw on something like experience simply means to use it as a resource, much like drawing from a well.

He drew from his experience as a fund manager to calculate the potential return on his real estate investments.

The two can be interchangeable in meaning but there still remains a difference in nuance.

  • Can we say the use of "parlay" is not as common as similar words such as to use, to utilize, to leverage ?
    – Mrt
    Commented Dec 28, 2016 at 17:53
  • Only because it has a very specific meaning. The other words like "leverage" are more general and so more common.
    – Andrew
    Commented Dec 28, 2016 at 17:57
  • In 60 years, I have never come across this word.
    – Mick
    Commented Dec 28, 2016 at 18:28

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