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In mathematics, the parabola (plural parabolae or parabolas, pronounced /pəˈræbələ/, from the Greek παραβολή) is a conic section, the intersection of a right circular conical surface and a plane parallel to a generating straight line of that surface. Given a point (the focus) and a corresponding line (the directrix) on the plane, the locus of points in that plane that are equidistant from them is a parabola. The line perpendicular to the directrix and passing through the focus (that is the line that splits the parabola through the middle)is called the "axis of symmetry". The point on the axis of symmetry that intersects the parabola is called the "vertex". The vertex is the point where the parabola changes directions. Parabolas can open up, down, left, or right.
The name "parabola" is derived from a New Latin term that means something similar to "compare" or "balance".
The parabola has many important applications, from automobile headlight reflectors to the design of ballistic missiles. They are frequently used in physics, engineering, and many other areas.
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