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

  • n. A social outcast: "Shortly Tom came upon the juvenile pariah of the village, Huckleberry Finn, son of the town drunkard” ( Mark Twain).
  • n. An Untouchable.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. 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.
  • n. An outcast; one despised by society.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. 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.
  • n. [lowercase] A member of any similarly degraded class; one generally despised; an outcast from society; a vagabond.

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

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


Tamil paṛaiyar, pl. of paṛaiyan, pariah caste, from paṛai, festival drum.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
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. (Wiktionary)



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  • 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

  • Citation on predate.

    November 21, 2008