a folding, umbrellalike, fabric device with cords supporting a harness or straps for allowing a person, object, package, etc., to float down safely through the air from a great height, especially from an aircraft, rendered effective by the resistance of the air that expands it during the descent and reduces the velocity of its fall.
1785, from Fr. parachute, lit. "that which protects against a fall," hybrid coined by Fr. aeronaut François Blanchard (1753-1809) from para- "defense against" (from L. parare "prepare") + chute "a fall" (see chute). The verb is attested from 1807.