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 2c ), ortho- ( def 2b ). See diag. under ortho-.
Also, especially before a vowel, par-.

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


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

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


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 Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
para- or (before a vowel) par-1
1.  beside; near: parameter; parathyroid
2.  beyond: parapsychology
3.  resembling: paramnesia
4.  defective; abnormal: paraesthesia
5.  subsidiary to: paraphysis
6.  (usually in italics) ortho- Compare meta- p- 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
7.  denoting an isomer, polymer, or compound related to a specified compound: paraldehyde; paracasein
8.  Compare ortho- denoting the form of a diatomic substance in which the spins of the two constituent atoms are antiparallel: parahydrogen
[from Greek para (prep) alongside, beyond]
par- or (before a vowel) par-1
[from Greek para (prep) alongside, beyond]

combining form
indicating an object that acts as a protection against something: parachute; parasol
[via French from Italian para-, from parare to defend, shield against, ultimately from Latin parāre to prepare]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Word Origin & History

prefix meaning "alongside, beyond, altered, contrary," from Gk. para- from para (prep.) "beside, near, from, against, contrary to," cognate with Skt. para "beyond;" Hitt. para "on, forth;" L. pro "before, for, in favor of," per- "through;" Goth. faur "along;" O.E. for- "off, away" (see fore).
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Medical Dictionary

para- or par-

  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. Abbr. p- 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.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
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