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In modern usage, the word paraphernalia most commonly refers to equipment, apparatus, or furnishing used in or necessary for a particular activity as in, "Beth is such an avid sports fan that her walls are covered with baseball paraphernalia".

In legal parlance, "paraphernalia" is a term of art from older family law. The word "paraphernalia" is plural, meaning "things beyond the dowry". Paraphernalia were the separate property of a married woman, such as clothing and jewelry "appropriate to her station", but excluding the assets that may have been included in her dowry. The term originated in Roman law, but ultimately comes from Greek παράφερνα (parapherna), "beyond (para) the dowry (phernē)".

These sorts of property were considered the separate property of a married woman under coverture. A husband could not sell, appropriate, or convey good title to his wife's assets considered paraphernalia without her separate consent. They did not become a part of her husband's estate upon his death, and could be conveyed by a married woman's will.See, e.g., Coffinberry v. Madden, 30 Ind.App. 360, 66 N.E. 64 (Ind.Ct.App. 1903); 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, sub. tit. "Paraphernalia"; Black's Law Dictionary, 5th ed. (West, 1979) ISBN 0-8299-2041-2

The legal concept of paraphernalia in this sense is an important plot point in Anthony Trollope's novel The Eustace Diamonds. In the novel,...
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