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noun plural but singular or plural in construction par·a·pher·na·lia \ˌper-ə-fə(r)-ˈnāl-yə, ˌpa-rə-\

Simple Definition of paraphernalia

  • : objects that are used to do a particular activity : objects of a particular kind

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of paraphernalia

  1. 1 :  the separate real or personal property of a married woman that she can dispose of by will and sometimes according to common law during her life

  2. 2 :  personal belongings

  3. 3 a :  articles of equipment :  furnishings b :  accessory items :  appurtenances

Examples of paraphernalia in a sentence

  1. Mind if we pick through your personal effects? The King of Scrounge, an American serviceman, has crammed his local apartment with enough salvaged paraphernalia to equip a battalion. —Garry Trudeau, New York Times, 25 June 1991

  2. There were odd knickknacks (strange that the Hebrew naknik should mean sausage)—… shell ashtrays from Brighton, all my stepmother's paraphernalia. —Anthony Burgess, Wilson Quarterly, Spring 1991

  3. To an Englishman, accustomed to the paraphernalia of Westminster Hall, an American Court of Law is as odd a sight as, I suppose, an English Court of Law would be to an American. Except in the Supreme Court at Washington (where the judges wear a plain black robe), there is no such thing as a wig or gown connected with the administration of justice. —Charles Dickens, American Notes, 1842

Did You Know?

In current use, paraphernalia is typically encountered in its "equipment" sense in such contexts as "arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia." But the word hasn't always been used in that way. Originally, paraphernalia was property that a married woman owned herself-as opposed to her husband's property or the dowry she brought to the marriage. Paraphernalia came to English, via Medieval Latin, from Greek parapherna, meaning "bride's property beyond her dowry" (from para-, meaning "beyond," and phernē, meaning "dowry"). Although paraphernalia was plural in Medieval Latin, it can take either a singular or plural verb in English.

Origin of paraphernalia

Medieval Latin, ultimately from Greek parapherna bride's property beyond her dowry, from para- + phernē dowry, from pherein to bear — more at bear

First Known Use: 1651

Rhymes with paraphernalia

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up paraphernalia? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to dishevel or rumple

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