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 Nearby: To buy dwarf car paraphernalia such as T-shirts, books, DVDs and magnets, visit the Dwarf Car Gift Shop a block away at Flat Tire Springs. Roger Naylor, azcentral, "Dwarf cars: Street-legal replicas of classic rides are made in AZ. Here's where to see them," 27 Mar. 2020 He was stopped and found with suspected methamphetamine, marijuana, drug paraphernalia and a knife. Brian Lisik, cleveland, "Woman suspects former roommates of stealing furniture: Brunswick Police Blotter," 23 Mar. 2020 Remember to remove drug paraphernalia from your immediate vicinity before broadcasting. Caity Weaver, New York Times, "The Most Crucial Tools for WFH: Kindness, and a Piece of Tape," 20 Mar. 2020 Classic rock posters and music are featured, along with various sports paraphernalia. oregonlive, "Natian Brewery relies on hard work, creative twists: Portland Breweries Series," 13 Dec. 2019 There are no more than a couple of dozen (mostly white) protesters outside Michael Bloomberg’s speech here Thursday, some carrying Bernie Sanders paraphernalia. Jason Willick, WSJ, "What Kind of Voter Supports Mike Bloomberg?," 28 Feb. 2020 Police found 9mm and .40-caliber shell casings at the scene, as well as drug paraphernalia. Tom Steele, Dallas News, "Teen arrested, 2 others sought after fatal shooting of Duncanville High student in DeSoto," 29 Jan. 2020 The records also show that Rogers is facing a misdemeanor for possession of a schedule II drug and drug paraphernalia. Eric Todisco,, "Teen Mom 2 Star Jenelle Evans’ Ex-Husband Courtland Rogers Arrested on Drug and Larceny Charges," 21 Jan. 2020 Each cancer chair has two folding trays, one for the nurse’s paraphernalia and one for the patient’s. Christian Wiman, Harper's magazine, "The Cancer Chair," 20 Jan. 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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Time Traveler for paraphernalia

Time Traveler

The first known use of paraphernalia was in 1651

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Last Updated

31 Mar 2020

Cite this Entry

“Paraphernalia.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Apr. 2020.

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More Definitions for paraphernalia


How to pronounce paraphernalia (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of paraphernalia

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

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