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

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 Rolle has previously pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct and possession of drug paraphernalia, and also has a felony drug possession case pending in Harris County, according to court records. Matthew Martinez, star-telegram, "He got 'pranked' by his girlfriend's husband — so he stabbed him to death, Texas cops say," 3 July 2018 Payne faces numerous drug charges including possession and sale of dangerous drugs, possession of drug paraphernalia, the sale of drugs within a school zone and misconduct involving a deadly weapon, officials said. Angela Forburger, azcentral, "Man suspected of selling meth near elementary school," 27 June 2018 She was cited for drug abuse, possession of drug paraphernalia, not having two headlights and expired plates. John Benson,, "Woman with baggie of marijuana and pipe cited for drug abuse: North Royalton Police Blotter," 3 May 2018 According to authorities, Lolley was charged with fleeing to elude, possession of drug paraphernalia and driving with a suspended or revoked driver's license. Paulina Dedaj, Fox News, "Florida police chase leaves 2 in custody; cops seize drugs, loaded gun and 'sweet puppy'," 6 Sep. 2018 Arrington was booked on charges of transportation of marijuana for sale, possession of marijuana for sale, possession of drug paraphernalia, and child abuse. Nathan J. Fish, azcentral, "Man arrested while driving with 180 pounds of marijuana — and his 5-year-old child," 2 July 2018 Decked out with Iranian flags, headscarves and other paraphernalia, both female and male soccer fans stared down a row of police blocking the entrance to the stadium. Rebecca Tan, Washington Post, "For the first time since 1980, Iranian women allowed to watch World Cup in same stadium as men," 20 June 2018 Inside his car police found two uncased and loaded firearms and drug paraphernalia, the release said. Staff Report, Elgin Courier-News, "2 Elgin men picked up on multiple felony gun charges after traffic stop," 18 June 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

9 Dec 2018

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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

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to make faulty or ineffective

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