par·​a·​pher·​na·​lia | \ ˌper-ə-fər-ˈnāl-yə How to pronounce paraphernalia (audio) , ˌpa-rə-, -fə-ˈnāl-yə\

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

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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.

Examples of paraphernalia in a Sentence

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 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 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
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Recent Examples on the Web

Police arrested an 18-year-old Houston man for possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia April 16 in the 1900 block of Main Street. Jennifer James, Houston Chronicle, "Police investigate cases of criminal mischief," 30 Apr. 2018 The three were cited with possession of marijuana/paraphernalia. Joanne Berger Dumound/special To,, "Motorist falls asleep in drive thru after ordering burrito: Middleburg Heights police blotter," 21 Apr. 2018 Nigel Steele, who is accused of stabbing to death Kendale Ely in January 2017, was charged with being in possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. Christopher Harress,, "Mobile murder suspect arrested on drug charges while out on bond," 20 Apr. 2018 First block of East Royal Palm Road, Boca Raton, March 28, 10:50 p.m. A male was arrested for possession of marijuana and paraphernalia., "CRIME," 12 Apr. 2018 Worthy – who has since been fired -- and Trexler are both facing charges of child neglect and possession of cocaine, marijuana and drug paraphernalia, the Orlando Sentinel reported. Greg Norman, Fox News, "Florida's 2016 'Officer of the Year' arrested after feces, guns, drugs allegedly found in his 'disgusting' home," 9 Mar. 2018 He was later identified as 33-year-old Richard Howard Walters, and has since been arrested and charged with with possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia and driving while impaired, according to CBS17. Madeline Farber, Fox News, "Officers killed in the line of duty in 2018," 19 Sep. 2018 Photo: Ethan Pines for The Wall Street Journal Tiki-Mania Tiki conventions across the country are attracting thousands of visitors who buy tiki paraphernalia, take hula lessons and learn to make Mai Tais and select music. Nancy Keates, WSJ, "Transforming a Garage Into a $30,000 Private Tiki Hut," 30 Aug. 2018 Frey was arrested for operating a vehicle while impaired and possession of drug paraphernalia, the station reported. Stephen Sorace, Fox News, "Baby survives birth in Burger King restroom as mom OD'd on heroin, police say," 10 Aug. 2018

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

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First Known Use of paraphernalia

1651, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for paraphernalia

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

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Statistics for paraphernalia

Last Updated

4 Feb 2019

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Time Traveler for paraphernalia

The first known use of paraphernalia was in 1651

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More Definitions for paraphernalia



English Language Learners Definition of paraphernalia

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on paraphernalia

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with paraphernalia

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for paraphernalia

Spanish Central: Translation of paraphernalia

Nglish: Translation of paraphernalia for Spanish Speakers

Comments on paraphernalia

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


to corrupt or become corrupted

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