Where does the word “paraphernalia” originate and What does paraphernalia mean?

In ancient Greece, as well as in some modern countries, a bridegroom received some gift or dowry, money, cattle, or other property, along with his bride, usually from her parents.

This dowry then became his, to dispose of as he might wish. But the bride might also bring with her certain personal property, such as slaves or jewels, for example.

These, under Greek law, her husband could not touch. They were distinctly her own possessions, and were known as parapherna, from para, beyond, and phero, bring; that is, belongings brought beyond those specified in the marriage contract.

In present-day legal usage the Latinized term, paraphernalia, carries the same general interpretation, varying somewhat in our different States.

The term is also used more broadly to designate any sort of miscellaneous equipment possessed by any individual or group.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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