par·​a·​pher·​na·​lia | \ ˌper-ə-fər-ˈnāl-yə How to pronounce paraphernalia (audio) , ˌpa-rə-, -fə-ˈnāl-yə \

Essential Meaning of paraphernalia

: objects that are used to do a particular activity : objects of a particular kind hockey paraphernalia [=equipment] Drug paraphernalia was found in his car.

Full 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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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 The man was arrested on suspicion of distributing drugs, six counts of drug possession with intent to distribute, and possession of drug paraphernalia. Connor Sanders, The Salt Lake Tribune, 24 Nov. 2021 The driver was cited for drug abuse and possession of drug paraphernalia. John Benson, cleveland, 23 Nov. 2021 Silvestre Vargas, 45, of the 1400 block of Lombard Avenue, Berwyn was arrested Nov. 18 on a warrant from a case in Morton Grove and possession of drug paraphernalia following an incident in Wilmette. Daniel I. Dorfman,, 22 Nov. 2021 She was subsequently charged with resisting arrest, having weapons under disability and possession of drug paraphernalia. cleveland, 11 Nov. 2021 Seymour faces four charges including, reckless manslaughter, possession/use of a dangerous drug, possession/use of drug paraphernalia, and possession/use of narcotic drugs. Support local journalism. Steven Hernandez, The Arizona Republic, 10 Nov. 2021 Tiwanna Craig, 40, of the 13500 block of Claire Boulevard, Robbins, was arrested and accused of possession of crack cocaine, sale or delivery of drug paraphernalia and obstructing justice Nov. 3 in the 15900 block of South Linden Drive, police said. Daily Southtown Staff,, 10 Nov. 2021 Sudberry’s husband, Joshua Wayne Sudberry, 33, is facing two felonies out of Rainbow City: chemical endangerment of a child and possession of drug paraphernalia. Howard Koplowitz |, al, 2 Nov. 2021 Charges were reduced or dismissed in 67 cases in which evidence was found to be improperly booked, including drug paraphernalia, license plates and photo and video footage. Hayley Smith, Los Angeles Times, 2 Nov. 2021

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

29 Nov 2021

Cite this Entry

“Paraphernalia.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Dec. 2021.

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More from Merriam-Webster on paraphernalia

Nglish: Translation of paraphernalia for Spanish Speakers


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