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 Jail records indicate was booked into the lockup earlier this week and was being held on charges that include resisting arrest, possession of drug paraphernalia, and violation of a family violence protective order. Carol Robinson |, al, "East Alabama inmate steals police cruiser, crashes through gate in getaway attempt," 11 Feb. 2021 Lyons’ two most recent contacts with police came last month, when he was arrested by Daly City police on Jan. 4 for public intoxication and then on Jan. 8 by San Mateo police for public intoxication and possession of drug paraphernalia. Megan Cassidy, San Francisco Chronicle, "Suspect in fatal S.F. crash faced another, separate DUI charge weeks earlier," 5 Feb. 2021 May has been charged with drug possession, possession of drug paraphernalia and third-degree burglary. William Thornton |, al, "Rainsville man returns home to find naked man in living room," 15 Jan. 2021 The driver was cited for having a weapon under disability, possession of drug paraphernalia and drug trafficking. John Benson, cleveland, "Thief steals T-shirt and pink wallet from Chevy Suburban: Brooklyn Police Blotter," 30 Dec. 2020 Jose Pereyra was booked into the St. Tammany Parish Jail on possession of marijuana; possession with intent to distribue cocaine; possession of drug paraphernalia and transactions involving proceeds from drug offenses. Sara Pagones | Staff Writer,, "Nearly 50 pounds of cocaine seized in traffic stop by St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's deputies," 13 Nov. 2020 He is charged with felony possession of methamphetamine, felony possession of drug paraphernalia and misdemeanor endangering the welfare of a minor. William Sanders, Arkansas Online, "POLICE BEAT: 2 Texans facing trafficking charges," 24 Oct. 2020 In searching the home, police found marijuana, LSD, drug paraphernalia and cash in the teen's room. Bill Kurtz, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Grafton couple charged in connection with teen drug dealing," 20 Oct. 2020 He was also reportedly charged with multiple counts of possession of paraphernalia and distribution of marijuana. Michael Hollan, Fox News, "Utah man repeatedly chases neighbor's Airbnb guests away with shotgun, gets arrested," 21 Sep. 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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The first known use of paraphernalia was in 1651

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Last Updated

26 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Paraphernalia.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Mar. 2021.

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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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Nglish: Translation of paraphernalia for Spanish Speakers

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