from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun One that serves as a pattern or model.
  • noun A set or list of all the inflectional forms of a word or of one of its grammatical categories.
  • noun A set of assumptions, concepts, values, and practices that constitutes a way of viewing reality for the community that shares them, especially in an intellectual discipline.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun An example; a model.
  • noun In grammar, an example of a word, as a noun, adjective, or verb, in its various inflections.
  • noun In rhetoric, an example or illustration, of which parable and fable are species: a general term, used by Greek writers.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun rare An example; a model; a pattern.
  • noun (Gram.) An example of a conjugation or declension, showing a word in all its different forms of inflection.
  • noun (Rhet.) An illustration, as by a parable or fable.
  • noun (Science) A theory providing a unifying explanation for a set of phenomena in some field, which serves to suggest methods to test the theory and develop a fuller understanding of the topic, and which is considered useful until it is be replaced by a newer theory providing more accurate explanations or explanations for a wider range of phenomena.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun An example serving as a model or pattern; a template.
  • noun linguistics A set of all forms which contain a common element, especially the set of all inflectional forms of a word or a particular grammatical category.
  • noun A system of assumptions, concepts, values, and practices that constitutes a way of viewing reality.
  • noun A conceptual framework—an established thought process.
  • noun A way of thinking which can occasionally lead to misleading predispositions; a prejudice. A route of mental efficiency which has presumably been verified by affirmative results/predictions.
  • noun A philosophy consisting of ‘top-bottom’ ideas (namely biases which could possibly make the practitioner susceptible to the ‘confirmation bias’).

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun the generally accepted perspective of a particular discipline at a given time
  • noun the class of all items that can be substituted into the same position (or slot) in a grammatical sentence (are in paradigmatic relation with one another)
  • noun systematic arrangement of all the inflected forms of a word
  • noun a standard or typical example


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English, example, from Late Latin paradīgma, from Greek paradeigma, from paradeiknunai, to compare : para-, alongside; see para– + deiknunai, to show; see deik- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Established 1475-85 from Late Latin paradīgma, from Ancient Greek παράδειγμα (paradeigma, "pattern").


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  • The most annoying and misused word in the English language; used intentionally by stupid people to sound smart or by smart people to sound unintentionally stupid.

    October 22, 2007

  • You only ever hear about paradigms shifting. What do they think they are, better than us? Those shifty bastards, moving from place to place with no regard to those they leave behind.

    October 22, 2007

  • I guess I run in different circles. Not only do I almost never hear this word, but even when I do, it doesn't have to do with shifting. Instead, it's usually used with "dominant," or else used as "paradigmatic."

    October 22, 2007

  • I can surmise that you are in neither business or education, c_b. It's at the top of the "bullshit bingo" lists in both of those circles.

    October 22, 2007

  • Uhh... wrong on both counts? Like I said... I must run in different circles!

    Either that or--equally possible now that I think about it--I just tune out the bullshit.

    October 22, 2007

  • @skipvia: Love the term "bullshit bingo"!

    November 25, 2007

  • Official Definition #3: An example serving as a model; pattern.

    Its meaning probably extends from its alternate definitions: "a display in fixed arrangement of such a set, as boy, boy's, boys, boys'" and "a set of forms all of which contain a particular element, esp. the set of all inflected forms based on a single stem or theme."

    March 16, 2008

  • I lost a spelling bee on this word...

    March 12, 2009

  • years ago I heard this word used in Paradigm Shift... so many times, I actually started documenting the day, speaker, and number of times per lecture. ....not hearing it so much anymore...Has the paradigm shifted?

    June 20, 2009

  • See paradigm shift

    March 25, 2012