What do you mean? The Para Prefix

What do you mean? The Para Prefix

“Para” ugh, okay, let’s get started. Honestly, I can’t believe I’m writing this.

As a person who has spent a significant amount of time trying to discuss ideas and concepts which are, more often than not, unyielding in their understanding; I am quite relieved when I turn to a topic which actually has an enormous amount of solidity.

The researching of high-strangeness can be troublesome due to the lack of words which accurately describe a situation or happening. Investigation of the anomalistic phenomena and the environments that it seems to exist within encompass not only the realm of personal belief systems and philosophies but a world obscured by words and terms that society at large have yet to discuss and agree upon to use in a consistent manner so that we may more accurately discuss alleged phenomena and its means and methods.

The short of this concept is… We’ve never talked about what the words mean so we each use our representation of the word. When someone says “ghost” we all apply our own thoughts and ideas on the word. We may be speaking of something different but since we are using a generic term we think it is the same and in doing so we further obscure the what may be the true nature of the thing being described.

But, this post isn’t about all that. This small personal rant is about what we do know. I am hoping we can reclaim a prefix.
A prefix which has historical meaning, a prefix that has a defined foundation of history that for some reason of late many have chosen to make burdensome.

That prefix is “Para”

Let’s start with the basics of “Para” shall we?

We’ll begin with


Para- Prefix

  1. beside :  alongside of :  beyond :

2 a :  closely related to

 b :  involving substitution at or characterized by two opposite positions in the benzene ring that are separated by two carbon atoms

3 a :  faulty :  abnormal

 b :  associated in a subsidiary or accessory capacity

 c :  closely resembling :

Cambridge Dictionary

Para- Prefix

  1. Further than
  2. similar to, or helping to do a similar job:

Etymology Dictionary


before vowels, par-, word-forming element meaning “alongside, beyond; altered; contrary; irregular, abnormal,” from Greek para- from para (prep.) “beside, near, issuing from, against, contrary to,”

So as we can see the prefix “Para” has a multitude of meanings. The prefix is used in a number of ways throughout our society, Paramedic, Paralegal, Paragraph, Paratrooper and of course Paranormal.

Sometimes “para” represents something or someone which works alongside of something else. In some instances it means that which is “abnormal”. But like all good prefixes it has a meaning which is grounded in actually meaning something.

It is not a catch all for something which it has no meaning. Words are important. Words and their meanings add to our understanding of events and they help us explain what it is we are discussing.

The paranormal community for some reason has come to think that “Para-” means Ghosts or UFO or Bigfoot… that the prefix itself denotes supernatural connotations. It does not.

At best it means “abnormal” which I for one do not consider the related strange phenomena. Parallel to normal is also bandied about, once again I do not think the experiences and events are parallel to real experiences since if they are happening they happen within the natural universe not outside of it. If perhaps we are dealing with parallel realities and a multitude of universes then yes, some things could be considered to be “paranormal” but only in regards to our reality; in the “strange” situation’s base-reality it would be normal.

But I digress, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty .

The Short of the Prefix

If I were to call myself Paranormal John, it would mean, “I am John who is paranormal”, which is fine.

Yet if I called myself “Para John” it could mean a variety of things.

Abnormal John

Parallel John

Beside John

Near John

Similar to John

Closely Resembling John

…but it would not be the same as “Paranormal John.”

Placing “Para” before a word does not endow the word with any meaning related to what is commonly called paranormal phenomena.

Parawindow does not mean a haunted or supernatural window.

Parapencil is not a haunted or ghostly pencil.

Parahouse is not a haunted house

Just as

Paramedics are not ghost doctors

Paralegals are not UFO lawyers.

Paralympics are not the Olympics for ghosts.

So when it comes to ghost-hunting team names, nicknames and slogans please remember how ridiculous it can sound to anyone that understands words, and their meanings, when you throw “para” in front of it.

As the community of researchers who invest so much time, money and personal energy into, hopefully, revealing some deeper understanding of our seemingly shared world perhaps we should more deeply understand the words we are using when we are discussing it.

  • Full closure I do not personally like using the word “paranormal.” Because of my ideas about anomalistic phenomena I tend to think that much of what I am researching is normal and not yet understood, misunderstood or simply not real.
  • This post may be full of grammatical errors and such which I will fix soon but I wrote it in a maddening state of mind so deal with it.