para·​mil·​i·​tary | \ ˌper-ə-ˈmi-lə-ˌter-ē How to pronounce paramilitary (audio) , ˌpa-rə- \

Definition of paramilitary

: of, relating to, being, or characteristic of a force formed on a military pattern especially as a potential auxiliary military force a paramilitary border patrol paramilitary training

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from paramilitary

paramilitary noun

Did You Know?

This term paramilitary can take in a wide range of organizations, but is usually applied to forces formed by a government. Groups opposing a government, even when organized along military lines, are more often referred to as guerrillas or insurgents. In countries with weak central governments (such as, in recent times, Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, or Congo), warlords may form their own paramilitary forces and take over all local police and military functions. Paramilitary often has a sinister sound today, since it's also applied to groups of off-duty military or police personnel who carry out illegal violence, often at night, with the quiet support of a government.

Examples of paramilitary in a Sentence

Government forces have been attacked by heavily armed paramilitary groups in several villages.
Recent Examples on the Web In 1983, a member of a Protestant paramilitary group tried to bomb the family home and injured himself horribly in the attempt. The Economist, "Northern Ireland Atonement and forgiveness in Belfast," 13 Feb. 2020 Before talking about his alleged desire to target news stations, Antifa and O'Rourke, Smith's fascination was with a far-right Ukrainian paramilitary group, according to LaMar's affidavit. Phil Helsel, NBC News, "Army soldier who discussed attack in U.S. pleads guilty to distributing bomb instructions," 11 Feb. 2020 The affidavit identified the Ukrainian paramilitary group as Azov Battalion and said Smith was mentored by someone who had fought with a similar group there, Right Sector. USA TODAY, "'Satanist' soldier pleads guilty to sharing bomb-making instructions," 11 Feb. 2020 Speaking of clues: More sensitive DNA forensic machinery is helping to identify the remains of those murdered decades ago in Guatemala by soldiers and right-wing paramilitary groups, Nat Geo reports. Acacia Johnson, National Geographic, "Why do millions of pilgrims descend on Mexico City?," 6 Jan. 2020 Soleimani was a towering figure in Iran’s power projection across the region, with close links to a network of paramilitary groups that stretches from Syria to Yemen. Louisa Loveluck, Anchorage Daily News, "Iran vows revenge after U.S. drone strike kills elite force commander," 3 Jan. 2020 Several violent neo-Nazi paramilitary fascist groups were organized on the forums, including the Antipodean Resistance and the Atomwaffen Division. Dan Goodin, Ars Technica, "Members of violent white supremacist website exposed in massive data dump," 7 Nov. 2019 The first was Jack Mohr, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and former prisoner of war in Korea who ran his own Christian Identity paramilitary group, recruiting through his publication The Christian Patriot Crusader. Matt Farwell, The New Republic, "The Forgotten Christian Terror Cult That Presaged Trump’s Memes," 22 Oct. 2019 A year before joining the Army, Smith expressed a desire to join the violent, far-right Ukrainian paramilitary group called Azov Battalion, officials said. Fox News, "US Army soldier allegedly discussed bombing major news network, fighting in Ukraine," 23 Sep. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'paramilitary.' 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 paramilitary

1935, in the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about paramilitary

Time Traveler for paramilitary

Time Traveler

The first known use of paramilitary was in 1935

See more words from the same year

Statistics for paramilitary

Last Updated

17 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Paramilitary.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Feb. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for paramilitary


How to pronounce paramilitary (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of paramilitary

: of or relating to a group that is not an official army but that operates and is organized like an army

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on paramilitary

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


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

More Confusing Words—Quiz

  • cats on impossible timber
  • The magician ______ moved the selected card to the top of the deck.
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Add Diction

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!