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From Tamil பறையர் (paṟaiyar), from பறையன் (paṟaiyaṉ, drummer), from பறை (paṟai, drum) or from Malayalam പറയർ (paṟayaṟ), from പറയൻ (paṟayaṉ, drummer), from പറ (paṟa, drum). Parai in Tamil or Para in Malayalam refers to a type of large drum designed to announce the king’s notices to the public. The people who made a living using the parai were called paraiyar; in the caste-based society they were in the lower strata, hence the derisive paraiah and pariah.

Alternatively, derived from Sanskrit पर (para, distant; outsider), ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *per-. See for example: Hindi परजन (parjan, outsider to society) or Hindi पराया (parāyā, stranger).


  • IPA(key): /pəˈɹaɪə/
  • (file)
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -aɪə


pariah (plural pariahs)

  1. Synonym of outcast: A person despised and excluded by their family, community, or society, especially a member of the untouchable castes in Indian society.
    • 1857, W[illiam] M[akepeace] Thackeray, “The Fitz-Boodle Papers”, in Miscellanies: Prose and Verse, volume IV, London: Bradbury and Evans, [], →OCLC, page 4:
      What is this smoking that it should be considered a crime? I believe in my heart that women are jealous of it, as of a rival. They speak of it as of some secret, awful vice that seizes upon a man, and makes him a Pariah from genteel society.
    • 1985, Robert Holmes, “The Two Doctors”, in Doctor Who, season 22, episode 4:
      I’m a pariah, outlawed from Time Lord society.
    • 2014, Sylvia Ann Hewlett, “Prologue”, in Executive Presence, →ISBN:
      [] I went from being a much-feted author to a pariah, since one of the many problems of being trashed on the front page of the New York Times is that everyone is in the know.
  2. (figurative) A similarly despised group of people or species of animal.
    • 2022 March 2, Thomas L. Friedman, “I See Three Scenarios for How This War Ends”, in The New York Times[1], →ISSN:
      This scenario could lead to war crimes the scale of which has not been seen in Europe since the Nazis — crimes that would make Vladimir Putin, his cronies and Russia as a country all global pariahs.
  3. (zoology) Ellipsis of pariah dog: an Indian breed, any stray dog in Indian contexts.

Derived terms[edit]