[ puh-rahy-uh ]
/ pəˈraɪ ə /


an outcast.
any person or animal that is generally despised or avoided.
(initial capital letter) a member of a low caste in southern India and Burma.

Nearby words

  1. parhelion,
  2. pari passu,
  3. pari-,
  4. pari-mutuel,
  5. paria,
  6. pariah dog,
  7. parian,
  8. parian ware,
  9. parica,
  10. paricutín

Origin of pariah

1605–15; < Tamil paṟaiyar, plural of paṟaiyan literally, drummer (from a hereditary duty of the caste), derivative of paṟai a festival drum

Related formspa·ri·ah·dom, nounpa·ri·ah·ism, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for pariah

British Dictionary definitions for pariah


/ (pəˈraɪə, ˈpærɪə) /


a social outcast
(formerly) a member of a low caste in South India

Word Origin for pariah

C17: from Tamil paraiyan drummer, from parai drum; so called because members of the caste were the drummers at festivals

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 pariah



1610s, from Portuguese paria or directly from Tamil paraiyar, plural of paraiyan "drummer" (at festivals, the hereditary duty of members of the largest of the lower castes of southern India), from parai "large festival drum." "Especially numerous at Madras, where its members supplied most of the domestics in European service" [OED]. Applied by Hindus and Europeans to any members of low Hindu castes and even to outcastes. Extended meaning "social outcast" is first attested 1819.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Culture definitions for pariah


[ (puh-reye-uh) ]

An outcast; a member of a low caste or class.


The word originally stems from the caste system of India, which put pariahs in a very low place in society. In the United States, it refers to those of low social class or social status.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.