1490, from M.Fr. paragraphe (13c., O.Fr. paragrafe), from M.L. paragraphus "sign for start of a new section of discourse" (the sign looked something like a stylized letter -P-), from Gk. paragraphos "short stroke in the margin marking a break in sense," also "a passage so marked," lit. "anything written beside," from paragraphein "write by the side," from para- "beside" + graphein "to write."