Used to provide protection and shade from rain and the sun, umbrellas and parasols are a necessary accessory for men and women alike. Umbrellas and parasols vary in colors, sizes, styles and prices and can be used for fashion or practical purposes. Learn the difference between a parasol and an umbrella, and buy the correct device for your needs and desires.


An umbrella is a hand-held device made of circular fabric or plastic that is stretched over a series of hinges similar to spokes on a wheel. The hinges attach to a central pole from where they can expand and retract as needed. The central pole also serves as the umbrella`s handle, which is generally curved at the end for easy carrying. Umbrellas are commonly used to protect a person from the rain or excessive sunlight. When not in use, umbrellas can retract, securing the hinges and collapsing the fabric for easy storage and transportation.


Parasol means “for sun” in Spanish. A parasol is a small umbrella that is generally delicate and dainty in appearance. Parasols are commonly used as a protective device against intense sunlight. They are light and portable and generally made from thick fabric to provide shade. The word parasol is also occasionally used to describe the large umbrellas commonly seen on beaches and patios providing shade to several people at once.

The Difference

The main difference between a parasol and an umbrella is its size and purpose. Parasols are smaller and lighter than umbrellas (or significantly larger in the case of beach and patio parasols) and are used only to shade people from the sun. They also tend to be made from fabric that may or may not be waterproof. Umbrellas are generally used as a protective device against rain and wet weather. They are made with waterproof material and are more resistant and durable than parasols.


In ancient Egypt, parasols were used to protect royalty from the sun. They were large in size and made of palm leaves or feathers. Parasols were held by bearers to shade their masters. In ancient China, umbrellas were made of waxed or lacquered paper and bamboo and used to protect people from rain. By the 16th century, the parasol became a fashion accessory in Europe, as they were small enough for people to carry without the aid of a servant. Parasols are rarely seen today outside of Japan and Spain, but the umbrella continues to be a useful protective device against wet weather.