An umbrella or parasol is a folding canopy supported by wooden or metal ribs that is mounted on a wooden, metal, or plastic pole. It is usually designed to protect a person against rain. The term umbrella is traditionally used when protecting oneself from rain, with parasol used when protecting oneself from sunlight, though the terms continue to be used interchangeably. Often the difference is the material used for the canopy; some parasols are not waterproof, and some umbrellas are transparent. Umbrella canopies may be made of fabric or flexible plastic. There are also combinations of parasol and umbrella that are called en-tout-cas (French for "in any case").
Generally speaking, parasols and umbrellas are small, handheld, personal use items. Golf umbrellas are the biggest hand-portable umbrellas available. There are two types of umbrellas: completely collapsible umbrellas, which can be folded up into a small enough bag because the metal pole supporting the canopy retracts, and non-collapsible umbrellas, which only have the canopy that can be folded up. Manually operated umbrellas and spring-loaded automatic umbrellas, which open with a button press, can also be distinguished from one another.
Hand-held umbrellas have a type of handle which can be made from wood, a plastic cylinder or a bent "crook" handle (like the handle of a cane). Umbrellas are available in a range of price and quality points, ranging from inexpensive, modest quality models sold at discount stores to expensive, finely made, designer-labeled models. Larger parasols capable of blocking the sun for several people are often used as fixed or semi-fixed devices, used with patio tables or other outdoor furniture, or as points of shade on a sunny beach.
A parasol may also be called a sunshade, or beach umbrella (US English). An umbrella may also be called a brolly (UK slang), parapluie (nineteenth century, French origin), rainshade, gamp (British, informal, dated), or bumbershoot (rare, facetious American slang). When used for snow, it is called a paraneige. When used for sun it is called a parasol.