By definition, the word paraphernalia does not portray either negative or positive emotions. Does it, in everyday usage?

In my particular case, I am making a website about programming. I have a section called
Pleasant Programming ______.

I thought it would be nice to have a 'p' word as the last word. However, I didn't want it to seem like negative thing. (In fact, it was supposed to be upbeat).

  • 1
    I think that for most people it doesn't carry any baggage at all - but my dad worked for the county Drug Abuse Control Services when I was a little kid, and for me paraphernalia will always mean a junkie's "works": the bent spoon, the endlessly-reused hypodermic, the tourniquet... As I say, though, I don't think most people will have that association, and even I like to use the word to give what I'm writing a little subversive twist.
    – MT_Head
    May 22, 2013 at 3:37
  • Are you talking about hardware, or about topics of concern or interest to programmers? May 22, 2013 at 5:21
  • 2
    You have not shown what meaning you found in the dictionary. Have you checked all the meanings in the dictionaries? "trappings associated with a particular institution or activity that are regarded as superfluous: the rituals and paraphernalia of government" (oxforddictionaries.com/definition/american_english/…)
    – Kris
    May 22, 2013 at 6:42
  • If it refers to a section about IDEs, editors, colour pickers and such, I cannot see any issues
    – mplungjan
    May 22, 2013 at 7:46

2 Answers 2


Paraphernalia has a slight negative connotation in some circles because of its association with criminal possession of drug paraphernalia. Otherwise, it's a good, whimsical word. I personally wouldn't worry about it, but if you have concerns, consider potpourri instead, especially if you're posting about trivia or other diverse topics.

  • -1 True, the negativity could be due the association with drugs, but that only in the phrase drug paraphernalia. On its own, the word has more a sense of "nuisance value" than "criminal". I'd say the word has negative connotations but not criminal.
    – Kris
    May 22, 2013 at 6:45
  • 2
    @Kris Words are known by the company they keep, and in many communities “drug” is implicit with “paraphernalia.” See MT_Head's comment on the question. May 22, 2013 at 19:27

In the UK the word 'paraphernalia' has rather strong negative connotations as it is rarely used in connection with anything not relating to drugs. It can also be used in a humorous way, but I would avoid it.

  • 3
    I strongly disagree. (I'm a Brit.) I didn't even think of the drug connection until I saw it mentioned. My immediate thought on reading the word paraphernalia was a collection of 'bits and pieces' - possibly, but certainly not necessarily, 'junk'. Although it may not be a common usage of the word, I would have little hesitation in saying I have a lot of computer paraphernalia, meaning leads, connectors, disks, memory cards, etc.. It can be used in many different contexts. Although some contexts may be negative, I don't immediately consider it to have a negative connotation.
    – TrevorD
    May 22, 2013 at 12:42
  • 2
    Maybe it's a generational thing, then. How old are you if that's not too rude? I'm 19 May 22, 2013 at 13:05
  • @JamesScott Let's say I remember, as a child, seeing petrol on sale at about 4/11¼d per (UK) gallon (four shillings and elevenpence-farthing) per gallon (equivalent to a little under 25p per gallon or about 5p per litre). And the answer's actually given in my profile, anyway.
    – TrevorD
    May 22, 2013 at 14:42
  • @TrevorD you misspelt my name :D haha! Fair enough though; I suppose my generation would probably forge a stronger relationship between paraphernalia and drugs, than yours. May 22, 2013 at 14:47
  • Apologies for the misspelling!
    – TrevorD
    May 22, 2013 at 15:00

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