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[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.
1605-15; < Tamil paṟaiyar, plural of paṟaiyan literally, drummer (from a hereditary duty of the caste), derivative of paṟai a festival drum
Related forms
pariahdom, noun
pariahism, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples from the web for pariahs
  • Then they become desktop pariahs, turning from tabletop-tidies to plastic clutter in seconds.
  • Discharged as undesirable, they often found themselves pariahs, unwelcome in their hometowns and unable to find work.
  • In those communities, they are pariahs, but to the pro-choice movement they are heroes.
  • Regrettably, whistleblowers today are treated as pariahs almost everywhere.
  • Borders were almost closed and people with any symptoms were treated as pariahs.
  • She becomes a vampire, and thereby they become social pariahs and their marriage breaks down.
  • And when fans search the past, they look to venerate artists who were once pariahs.
  • Suddenly, the media determined the site was horrible and the people were pariahs in their own community.
  • Whistleblowers are treated as pariahs and are isolated.
  • Two or three families who suffered from boils became pariahs, as every one re fused to have any relations with them.
British Dictionary definitions for pariahs


/pəˈraɪə; ˈpærɪə/
a social outcast
(formerly) a member of a low caste in South India
Word Origin
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
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Word Origin and History for pariahs



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
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pariahs in Culture
pariah [(puh-reye-uh)]

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

Note: 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 American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Encyclopedia Article for pariahs


member of a low-caste group of Hindu India, formerly known as "untouchables" but renamed by the Indian social reformer Mahatma Gandhi as Harijans (children of the god Hari Visnu, or, simply, children of God). The word pariah-originally derived from Tamil paraiyar, "drummer"-once referred to the Paraiyan, a Tamil caste group of labourers and village servants of low status, but the meaning was extended to embrace many groups outside the so-called clean caste groups, with widely varying degrees of status. See also untouchable.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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