• synonyms


  1. a prefix appearing in loanwords from Greek, most often attached to verbs and verbal derivatives, with the meanings “at or to one side of, beside, side by side” (parabola; paragraph; parallel; paralysis), “beyond, past, by” (paradox; paragogue); by extension from these senses, this prefix came to designate objects or activities auxiliary to or derivative of that denoted by the base word (parody; paronomasia), and hence abnormal or defective (paranoia), a sense now common in modern scientific coinages (parageusia; paralexia). As an English prefix, para-1 may have any of these senses; it is also productive in the naming of occupational roles considered ancillary or subsidiary to roles requiring more training, or of a higher status, on such models as paramedical and paraprofessional: paralegal; paralibrarian; parapolice.
  2. Chemistry. a combining form designating the para (1, 4) position in the benzene ring. Abbreviation: p-.Compare meta-(def 4b), ortho-(def 2b).
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Also especially before a vowel, par-.

Origin of para-1

< Greek para-, combining form representing pará (preposition) beside, alongside of, by, beyond


  1. a combining form meaning “guard against,” occurring in loanwords from French, or, via French, from Italian: parachute; parasol.
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Origin of para-2

< French < Italian para, 3rd singular present of parare to prepare against, ward off < Latin parāre to prepare


  1. a combining form extracted from parachute, forming compounds denoting persons or things utilizing parachutes or landed by parachute: paradrop; paradoctor; paraglider; paratrooper.
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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for para-


before a vowel par-

  1. beside; nearparameter; parathyroid
  2. beyondparapsychology
  3. resemblingparamnesia
  4. defective; abnormalparaesthesia
  5. subsidiary toparaphysis
  6. (usually in italics) denoting that an organic compound contains a benzene ring with substituents attached to atoms that are directly opposite across the ring (the 1,4- positions)paradinitrobenzene; para- cresol Abbreviation: p- Compare ortho- (def. 4), meta- (def. 4)
  7. denoting an isomer, polymer, or compound related to a specified compoundparaldehyde; paracasein
  8. denoting the form of a diatomic substance in which the spins of the two constituent atoms are antiparallelparahydrogen Compare ortho- (def. 6)
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Word Origin

from Greek para (prep) alongside, beyond


combining form
  1. indicating an object that acts as a protection against somethingparachute; parasol
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Word Origin

via French from Italian para-, from parare to defend, shield against, ultimately from Latin parāre to prepare
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for para-


before vowels, par-, word-forming element meaning "alongside, beyond; altered; contrary; irregular, abnormal," from Greek para- from para (prep.) "beside, near, issuing from, against, contrary to," from PIE *prea, from root *per- (1) "forward, through" (see per). Cognate with Old English for- "off, away."

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word-forming element meaning "defense, protection against; that which protects from," from Italian para, imperative of parare "to ward off," from Latin parare "make ready" (see pare).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

para- in Medicine


  1. Beside; near; alongside:paranucleus.
  2. Beyond:parapsychology.
  3. Incorrect; abnormal:paradipsia.
  4. Similar to; resembling:paratyphoid.
  5. Subsidiary; assistant:paramedical.
  6. Isomeric; polymeric:paraldehyde.
  7. A diatomic molecule in which the nuclei have opposite spin directions:parahydrogen.
  8. Of or relating to one of three possible isomers of a benzene ring with two attached chemical groups in which the carbon atoms with attached groups are separated by two unsubstituted carbon atoms. Usually in italic:para-bromoiodobenzene.
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The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.