par·a·pher·na·lia | \ˌper-ə-fər-ˈnāl-yə, 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

Ball faces charges of murder; dealing and possession of methamphetamine; maintaining a common nuisance; possession of paraphernalia and unlawful possession of a syringe. Holly V. Hays, Indianapolis Star, "Authorities charge 2 more men in death of Boone County Deputy Jacob Pickett," 11 July 2018 Shields also faces additional charges including carrying a firearm without a license and possession of drug paraphernalia, The Centre Daily Times reported. Natalie Dreier, ajc, "Bath salts land two in jail for shooting at ‘alien lasers’ that were really fireflies, police say," 5 July 2018 Stacy Lynn Sherman, 32, of the 300 block of Logan Court, was charged Wednesday with possession of drug paraphernalia and two counts of drug possession other than marijuana. Erika Butler, The Aegis, "Police blotter," 28 June 2018 Armed with a search warrant, Providence police officers and DEA agents later searched Romero’s apartment on Plainfield Street in that city and recovered an additional kilo of suspected fentanyl, plus assorted drug paraphernalia, records show. Travis Andersen,, "Three men nabbed in fentanyl trafficking ring that stretched from R.I. to Lawrence," 28 June 2018 After obtaining a search warrant police found additional firearms, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, heroin/fentanyl residue, packaging materials, a digital scale, drug paraphernalia and hypodermic syringes, according to the sheriff’s department. Amanda Marrazzo, McHenry County, "Crystal Lake man charged with drug-induced homicide in McHenry County death," 22 June 2018 Uphoff was charged with possession of methamphetamine, possession of drug paraphernalia and a probation violation. Erik S. Hanley, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Woman wanted on drug charges set up apartment inside vacant Cudahy building, police say," 20 June 2018 After pleading guilty in September 2013 to possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of marijuana, online court records show, Barnes was sentenced to five months at the Orleans Parish Prison with credit for time served. Emily Lane,, "Arrested man accused in Mardi Gras quintuple shooting that killed 2," 17 May 2018 Gambardella has a history of past arrests, including retail theft, forgery, impersonating a public servant, possession of drug paraphernalia and attempted prostitution, according to the Citizen Times. Scott Berson, miamiherald, "Woman had sex with teen up to six times a day and pimped him out for drug money, Penn. police say | Miami Herald," 14 May 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

30 Sep 2018

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Time Traveler for paraphernalia

The first known use of paraphernalia was in 1651

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English Language Learners Definition of paraphernalia

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

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