noun, plural in form but singular or plural in construction

par·​a·​pher·​na·​lia ˌper-ə-fər-ˈnāl-yə How to pronounce paraphernalia (audio)
: 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
: personal belongings
: articles of equipment : furnishings
: 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.

Example Sentences

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
Recent Examples on the Web The driver was cited for drug abuse, possession of drug paraphernalia and expired plates. John Benson, cleveland, 3 Aug. 2022 Andrew Morelopena, 21, of San Francisco was taken into custody after a brief scuffle with police on Wednesday, and booked on charges of assault, battery, possession of drug paraphernalia and resisting arrest, police said in a news release. Emma Talley, San Francisco Chronicle, 28 July 2022 His mother, meandering through a maze of poverty and addiction, soon is imprisoned for driving while under the influence and for possession of drug paraphernalia. Kali Fajardo-anstine, The Atlantic, 20 July 2022 Following a hearing Tuesday, Franklin County District Judge Paula McDowell ordered Dowdy’s bond to be revoked after she was arrested and charged Sunday with possession of methamphetamine and possession of drug paraphernalia. Paul Gattis |, al, 14 July 2022 She was arrested when police found drugs and drug paraphernalia in her hand. Steve Sadin, Chicago Tribune, 29 May 2022 Two individuals who were at the scene were arrested and charged with possession of felony drugs and paraphernalia, the report states. Brianna Kwasnik, Arkansas Online, 29 Apr. 2022 Students were ticketed for possession of drugs or drug paraphernalia — almost always related to cannabis — about 1,900 times. Jennifer Smith Richards, ProPublica, 28 Apr. 2022 While the officer was trying to verify the man’s identity, a K-9 search of his car revealed drugs and drug paraphernalia. Brian Lisik, cleveland, 12 Apr. 2022 See More

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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Word History


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

First Known Use

1651, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of paraphernalia was in 1651


Dictionary Entries Near paraphernalia

Cite this Entry

“Paraphernalia.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Aug. 2022.

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More from Merriam-Webster on paraphernalia

Last Updated: 13 Aug 2022

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