paraphernalia

noun

par·​a·​pher·​na·​lia ˌper-ə-fər-ˈnāl-yə How to pronounce paraphernalia (audio)
ˌpa-rə-,
-fə-ˈnāl-yə
plural in form but singular or plural in construction
1
a
: articles of equipment designed for a particular use or activity : apparatus
sports paraphernalia
Just across the road there's also a well-stocked supermarket and a souvenir shop selling all manner of beach paraphernalia.Helen McGurk
Simple possession of drug paraphernalia [=equipment used especially for taking, preparing, or selling illegal drugs] is not a federal crime. However, some state laws prohibit owning or possessing these items.Jeffrey A. Singer
b
: items or features typically associated with a particular activity, subject, etc. : appurtenances
… witches screaming into the lightning, monsters lurking and leaping, titanic battles between massed forces of Good and Evil, and the rest of the usual paraphernalia of fantasy horror.Melanie A. Rawls
The whole paraphernalia of the modern university—endowments, buildings and grounds, trustees and president, heads of departments and deans, curricula, grades and examinations—were absent or subordinated.J. McKeen Cattell
She had learned that she could always win him to her point of view by disguising a naked fact in the paraphernalia of philosophy.Ellen Glasgow
2
: personal belongings
[Dani S.] Bassett [professor] describes her [grandmother] as an "ultra-collector"—she had a basement and crawlspace full of antique paraphernalia such as chairs, books, crystal glasses, silverware, paintings and buttons.Amelia Tait
3
dated : 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

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
Recent Examples on the Web Rolling papers, pre-rolled cones, lighters, bongs, vapes and an array of other paraphernalia constitute the indispensable toolkit for cannabis consumers. Harrison Bard, Rolling Stone, 10 Apr. 2024 Tables with educational brochures and eclipse paraphernalia lined the sidewalks. Hannah Fry, Los Angeles Times, 8 Apr. 2024 See all Example Sentences for paraphernalia 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'paraphernalia.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

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 3

Time Traveler
The first known use of paraphernalia was in 1651

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Cite this Entry

“Paraphernalia.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/paraphernalia. Accessed 22 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition

paraphernalia

noun singular or plural
par·​a·​pher·​na·​lia ˌpar-ə-fə(r)-ˈnāl-yə How to pronounce paraphernalia (audio)
1
: personal belongings
2
: furnishings, apparatus
purchased all the necessary paraphernalia of the sport

More from Merriam-Webster on paraphernalia

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