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 Howard was booked into the Jackson County jail on a felony charge of cruelty to animals and a misdemeanor count of possession of drug paraphernalia. Ashley Remkus |, al, "Puppy found hanging from tree in Alabama; man arrested," 14 Feb. 2020 Swenson was charged the same day with three misdemeanors: retail theft, resisting or obstructing an officer and possession of drug paraphernalia. Bill Kurtz, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Two men 'surprised' by criminal charges, rather than citation, in Grafton liquor theft," 4 Feb. 2020 Williams and Hollier are suspected of promoting prostitution, narcotics trafficking, theft of services and possession of drug paraphernalia, police said. Howard Koplowitz |, al, "2 men forced woman to perform sex acts in abandoned house, Brookside police say," 1 Feb. 2020 He was also charged with resisting arrest, obstruction of official business and possession of drug paraphernalia. cleveland, "Man makes holy claims, threatens appliances in his home: Richmond Heights Police Blotter," 23 Jan. 2020 Pace shoved the officer in an attempt to be arrested, but the officer demurred until Pace pulled out a bundle of drug paraphernalia, police said. Washington Post, "Police: Man gets arrested in attempt to support jailed lover," 7 Jan. 2020 The man was cited for DUS and for possession of drug paraphernalia. cleveland, "Drunk woman arrested at country club while hitting someone with her shoe: Solon police blotter," 18 Jan. 2020 Check them out below! *Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. prohibits the sale of paraphernalia online. Dominique Hobdy, Essence, "Calling All Divas of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.! Shop These Items To Celebrate Founders' Day!," 13 Jan. 2020 After further investigation the driver of the vehicle was found to be in possession of drug paraphernalia. Houston Chronicle, "West University Place Police Department weekly report," 13 Jan. 2020

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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Time Traveler for paraphernalia

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The first known use of paraphernalia was in 1651

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Last Updated

18 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Paraphernalia.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for paraphernalia


How to pronounce paraphernalia (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of paraphernalia

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

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