1. 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.
2. Chem. a combining form designating the para (1, 4) position in the benzene ring. Abbr.: p-. Cf. meta- (def. 2c), ortho- (def. 2b). See diag. under ortho-.
Also, esp. before a vowel, par-.
[ < Gk para-, comb. form repr. pará (prep.) beside, alongside of, by, beyond]
a combining form meaning "guard against," occurring in loanwords from French, or, via French, from Italian: parachute; parasol.
[ < F < It para, 3d sing. pres. of parare to prepare against, ward off < L parare to PREPARE]
a combining form extracted from parachute, forming compounds denoting persons or things utilizing parachutes or landed by parachute: paradrop; paradoctor; paraglider; paratrooper.

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Universalium. 2010.

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