40 Words Beginning with “Para-“

By Mark Nichol

The prefix para- is versatile, meaning “beside,” “closely related,” or “closely resembling”; “accessory” or “subsidiary”; “beyond”; or “abnormal” or “faulty.” The commonality is that a word beginning with para- pertains to the relationship or resemblance of something to something else. This post lists and briefly defines words with the prefix.

1. parable (“throw beside”): a story illustrating a moral or religious principle
2. parabola (“throw beside”): a roughly U-shaped curve, or a similarly shaped object
3. paracentesis (“stab beside”): a puncturing surgical procedure
4. parachute (“against fall”): a canopy of fabric used to slow the fall of someone or something from an aircraft (or something figuratively similar), or a similar anatomical structure on an animal
5. paradigm (“show beside”): an example or pattern
6. parados (“against back”): a rear wall of a military trench
7. paradox (“outside of opinion”): something contrary to expectation
8. paragliding (“against descending smoothly,” on the model of parachute): an airborne activity involving a person harnessed to a maneuverable parachute-like wing
9. paragon (“beside whetstone”): a model or pattern of excellence
10. paragraph (“written beside”): a short piece of writing on one topic
11. paralanguage (“beside what is said”): vocal effects such as tone that convey additional meaning
12. paralegal (“beside law”): an assistant to a lawyer
13. paraleipsis (“pass over”): something mentioned only briefly, but emphasized by doing so
14. parallax (“change beside”): an inclination of two converging lines
15. parallel (“beside each other”): equidistant, or equal or similar, or arranged for simultaneity
16. parallelogram (“draw equal”): a four-sided shape with parallel sides of equal length
17. paralysis (“loosen beside”): loss of ability to move or act
18. paramagnetic (“abnormally attracting”): weakly magnetic
19. paramecium (“long on one side”): a type of single-celled animal
20. paramedic (“beside doctor”): medical personnel who treat injured or sick people before and while they are taken to a hospital, or who assist doctors
21. parameter (“beside measure”): a factor or limit
22. paramilitary (“resembling soldiers”): an unofficial military unit
23. paranoia (“beside mind”): delusional mental illness, or irrational suspicion
24. paranormal (“beside usual”): not scientifically explainable
25. parapet (“against breast”): a wall of stone or earth
26. paraphernalia (“beside dowry”): belongings or equipment
27. paraphilia (“beside love”): arousal about improper sexual practices
28. paraphrase (“point out beside”): restatement
29. paraplegia (“strike at one side”): paralysis of the lower body
30. parapraxis (“against practice”): blunder or lapse, or an error that reveals subconscious motives
31. paraprofessional (“beside skilled person”): one who assists a professional worker such as a teacher
32. parapsychology (“beside study of the mind”): investigation of psychic phenomena
33. paraquat (“resembling four,” from its chemical composition): an herbicide
34. parasailing (“against sail,” on the model of parachute): an airborne activity involving a person harnessed to a parachute-like device being pulled by a vehicle
35. parasite (“beside food”): an organism or entity that exploits a host or other entity
36. parasol (“against sun”): an umbrella for shielding the bearer from sunlight
37. parastate (“resembling political entity”): a political territory not recognized by others
38. parasympathetic (“beside feeling with”): pertaining to a part of the nervous system
39. paratransit (“beside travel”): individualized public transit
40. paratrooper (“against soldier,” on the model of parachute): a soldier specializing in parachuting from an aircraft

Some words beginning with para-, such as parakeet, paramount, and paramour, are distantly related, not directly associated with the etymology of the prefix, while other words beginning with or including par- but followed by another vowel or a consonant are closely cognate; the latter group will be detailed in a subsequent post.

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2 Responses to “40 Words Beginning with “Para-“”

  • D.A.W.

    “paraphobia” and “panphobia” – afraid of everything!

  • D.A.W.

    “Para” followed by a vowel? Often hyphenated just for that reason.
    “para-amino”, as in para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA), used for screening the human skin from ultraviolet rays.
    Also, “para-effect”; “para-effectual”. A few others.
    The prefix “para” is used in chemistry to describe the configuration of various types of organic compound that is based on benzene rings.
    Somewhat different, for example, are ortho-aminobenzoic acid, and meta-aminobenzoic acid. See

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