paraphernalia

noun, plural in form but singular or plural in construction par·a·pher·na·lia \ ˌper-ə-fər-ˈnāl-yə , ˌpa-rə- , -fə-ˈnāl-yə \
Updated on: 11 Sep 2017

Definition of paraphernalia

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 :personal belongings
3 a :articles of equipment :furnishings
b :accessory items :appurtenances

paraphernalia was our Word of the Day on 12/26/2013. Hear the podcast!

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 TrudeauNew York Times25 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 BurgessWilson QuarterlySpring 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 DickensAmerican Notes1842

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 and Etymology 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


PARAPHERNALIA Defined for English Language Learners

paraphernalia

noun

Definition of paraphernalia for English Language Learners

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



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).

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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

WORD OF THE DAY

serious difficulty or misfortune

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

The Exceptions Quiz III

  • one-green-toy-robot-amidst-many-red-toy-robots
  • Which of these words does not mean "nonsense"?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

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

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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