Printable Version
Pronunciation: pæ-rê-fêr-nay-lyê Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)

Meaning: 1. (Law) That property of a woman that does not pass to her husband by marriage, but remains her own. 2. Personal belongings, your things–clothing, jewelry, accessories. 3. Equipment required by a certain profession or activity, such as sound, mountain-climbing, or baseball paraphernalia.

Notes: Although many English-speakers have given up on preserving the second R in this Good Word, we think it deserves further consideration. Those of us who pronounce Rs at the end of syllables should pronounce this one. Pronounce it or not, it must be included in the correct spelling of this word. However, you do not have to worry about related words: this one is an orphan with no adjectives or verbs derived from it.

In Play: The implication of the second and third senses of today's word is that paraphernalia is equipment supporting some activity: "Rhonda Block considered her toy boy just another part of her traveling paraphernalia." More commonly this word is used today to refer to the tools of some activity: "Lacie Shortz considered class, professors, and books the paraphernalia of the education system to be used to enrich sorority life."

Word History: The Latin word paraphernalia, which English simply confiscated on one of its raids of that language, meant "of or related to the parapherna". Parapherna was a Greek word made up of para "beyond" + pherne "dowry" and referred to a bride's property beyond her dowry. The Greek root pher-, as in pherein "to carry", comes from PIE bher-/bhor- "carry, bring" and so fits a word meaning what a woman brings to a marriage. But it also turns up in amphora, from amphi "both sides" + phoreus "bearer", the large oval containers with a handle on either side that the Greeks used for transporting goods. PIE bher-/bhor- came through the Germanic languages to English as bear which, with the suffix -ing later developed into bring, the same meaning implicit in parapherna. (Today we thank Kathy Garrett for suggesting a word with such interesting historical paraphernalia as today's Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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