AskDefine | Define paraphernalia

Dictionary Definition

paraphernalia n : equipment consisting of miscellaneous articles needed for a particular operation or sport etc. [syn: gear, appurtenances]

User Contributed Dictionary




The origin of the word is in ancient Greek (para + pherne), 'things additional to a dowry'. In the propertied classes, a dowry was placed under the control of the husband, while the 'paraphernalia' which she brought with her remained her property.


  1. Miscellaneous items, especially the set of equipment required for a particular activity. Stuff.
    He has an impressive collection of bicycling paraphernalia, but he doesn't ride very often anymore.
  2. Things a woman owned, apart from her dowry.

Extensive Definition

Paraphernalia is a term of art from older law. Paraphernalia was the separate property of a married woman, such as clothing and jewelry "appropriate to her station", but excluding the assets that may have been included in her dower. The term originated in Roman law, but ultimately comes from Greek παράφερνα (parapherna), "beyond (para) the dower (phernē)".
These sorts of property were considered the separate property of a married woman under coverture. A husband could not sell, appropriate, or convey good title to his wife's assets considered paraphernalia without her separate consent. They did not become a part of her husband's estate upon his death, and could be conveyed by a married woman's will.
The legal concept of paraphernalia in this sense is an important plot point in Anthony Trollope's novel The Eustace Diamonds; in the novel, it was a matter of some consequence whether the title jewelry was an heirloom, property of the heirs, or a woman's paraphernalia, freely alienable by her. Changes in family law and inheritance law mirroring trends in the wider society, such as the several Married Woman's Property Acts of the various common law jurisdictions, have generally rendered the legal concept of paraphernalia obsolete.


paraphernalia in German: Paraphernalia
paraphernalia in Swedish: Paraphernalia

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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