Definitions

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

  • noun A social outcast.
  • noun A Dalit.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun A member of a low caste of Hindus in southern India, lower than the regular castes of the Brah-manical system, by whom they are shunned as unclean, yet superior to some other castes in the Tamil country, where they constitute a considerable part of the population. The Pariahs are commonly employed as laborers by the agricultural class, or as servants to Europeans.
  • noun [lowercase] A member of any similarly degraded class; one generally despised; an outcast from society; a vagabond.

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

  • noun One of an aboriginal people of Southern India, regarded by the four castes of the Hindus as of very low grade. They are usually the serfs of the Sudra agriculturalists. See Caste.
  • noun An outcast; one despised by society.
  • noun (Zoöl.) a mongrel race of half-wild dogs which act as scavengers in Oriental cities.
  • noun (Zoöl.) a species of kite (Milvus govinda) which acts as a scavenger in India.

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

  • noun An outcast.
  • noun A demographic group, species, or community that is generally despised.
  • noun Someone in exile.
  • noun A member of one of the oppressed social castes in India.
  • noun A person who is rejected (from society or home).

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

  • noun a person who is rejected (from society or home)

Etymologies

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

[From Tamil paṟaiyan, member of a Dalit group of southern India traditionally performing as drummers and performing other tasks considered unclean (from paṛai, festival drum) and its Malayalam equivalent, paṟayan (from paṛa, festival drum).]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Tamil பறையர் (paṟaiyar), from பறையன் (paṟaiyaṉ, "drummer"), from பறை (paṟai, "drum"). Parai refers in Tamil 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-ridden society they were in the lower strata, hence the derisive paraiah and pariah. Now the term is used to describe an outcast in English.

Examples

Comments

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  • Citation on predate.

    November 21, 2008

  • From A.W.A.D.: "From Tamil paraiyar, plural of paraiyan (drummer), from parai (drum, to tell). Because the drum players were considered among the lowest in the former caste system of India, the word took on the general meaning of an outcast. Earliest documented use: 1613."

    April 19, 2011