par·​a·​gon | \ ˈper-ə-ˌgän How to pronounce paragon (audio) , -gən, ˈpa-rə- \

Definition of paragon

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a model of excellence or perfection was a paragon of goodness a paragon of a wife


paragoned; paragoning; paragons

Definition of paragon (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to compare with : parallel
2 : to put in rivalry : match
3 obsolete : surpass

Keep scrolling for more

Paragon Has Old Italian and Greek Roots


Paragon derives from the Old Italian word paragone, which literally means "touchstone." A touchstone is a black stone that was formerly used to judge the purity of gold or silver. The metal was rubbed on the stone and the color of the streak it left indicated its quality. In modern English, both touchstone and paragon have come to signify a standard against which something should be judged. Ultimately, paragon comes from the Greek parakonan, meaning "to sharpen," from the prefix para- ("alongside of") and akonē, meaning "whetstone."

Examples of paragon in a Sentence

Noun in Arthurian legend, Sir Galahad is depicted as the one knight who is a paragon of virtue
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The international community took its eye off Myanmar, assuming Suu Kyi could handle the country's numerous problems while remaining a paragon of democracy. James Griffiths, CNN, "The West turned Aung San Suu Kyi into a saint. She was always going to disappoint," 13 Dec. 2019 Yet the former First Lady, paragon of cool elegance and unfailing good taste, was in fact utterly devoted to that earthy fragrance note so inextricably commingled with counter-culture rebellion and free love. April Long, Town & Country, "Jackie Kennedy's Unexpected Love of Patchouli," 28 July 2019 After decades of congressional budget hearings where Big Bird was cited as the paragon of the virtuous entertainment that only taxpayer-supported public television could provide, the Sesame Workshop moved the show to HBO in 2015. Bryan Greene, Smithsonian, "The Unmistakable Black Roots of ‘Sesame Street’," 7 Nov. 2019 Two years ago Russia’s health minister put Chukotka’s alcoholism rate at nearly six times higher than elsewhere in Russia, itself no paragon of sobriety. The Economist, "Russia’s Chukotka and America’s Alaska are an era apart," 17 Oct. 2019 The paragon of dynamic geometry is unencumbered by any power-hungry, number-crunching processor that gauges steps in line with sensor data. David Wilson, Popular Mechanics, "Machine Beats Man," 16 Oct. 2019 And the coup de grâce: The dispute was largely over whether the de Blasio administration blundered by bypassing Mother Cabrini, the patron saint of immigrants and a paragon to many Italian-Americans, with a statue. Jeffery C. Mays, New York Times, "Actor Charged Racism Over Statue. N.Y. Politics Took It From There.," 11 Oct. 2019 India is a paragon neither of democracy nor of environmentalism. The Economist, "Are dictatorships better than democracies at fighting climate change?," 19 Sep. 2019 America’s accounting watchdog is not exactly a paragon of effectiveness. Max De Haldevang, Quartz, "Whistleblowers say US audit watchdog is not doing its job. That should worry us all.," 16 Oct. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'paragon.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of paragon


circa 1548, in the meaning defined above


circa 1586, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for paragon

Noun and Verb

Middle French, from Old Italian paragone, literally, touchstone, from paragonare to test on a touchstone, from Greek parakonan to sharpen, from para- + akonē whetstone, from akē point; akin to Greek akmē point — more at edge

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about paragon

Time Traveler for paragon

Time Traveler

The first known use of paragon was circa 1548

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast about paragon

Statistics for paragon

Last Updated

9 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Paragon.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 20 January 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for paragon


How to pronounce paragon (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of paragon

formal : a person or thing that is perfect or excellent in some way and should be considered a model or example to be copied

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on paragon

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for paragon

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with paragon

Spanish Central: Translation of paragon

Nglish: Translation of paragon for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of paragon for Arabic Speakers

Comments on paragon

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


not to be intimidated or subdued

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

The Eponym Quiz

  • rubens painting
  • Which is the best synonym of bowdlerize?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!