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.
Chemistry. a combining form designating the para (1, 4) position in the benzene ring. Abbreviation: p-.Compare meta-(def 4b), ortho-(def 2b).
Also especially before a vowel, par-.

Origin of para-

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

Definition for para- (2 of 3)


a combining form meaning “guard against,” occurring in loanwords from French, or, via French, from Italian: parachute; parasol.

Origin of para-

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

Definition for para- (3 of 3)


a combining form extracted from parachute, forming compounds denoting persons or things utilizing parachutes or landed by parachute: paradrop; paradoctor; paraglider; paratrooper. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

British Dictionary definitions for para- (1 of 2)


before a vowel par-


Word Origin for para-

from Greek para (prep) alongside, beyond

British Dictionary definitions for para- (2 of 2)


combining form

indicating an object that acts as a protection against somethingparachute; parasol

Word Origin for para-

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

Medical definitions for para-



The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.