• Carmen Milligan

Wednesday Word: Pariah




  1. an outcast. "they were treated as social pariahs" synonyms: outcast · persona non grata · leper · reject · untouchable · undesirable · unperson


early 17th century: from Tamil paṛaiyan, Malayalam paṟayan ‘(hereditary) drummer’, from Tamil paṛai and Malayalam paṟa ‘a drum’.

In the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine last week, you may have heard this word used frequently during the past few days. Even a senior advisor to US President Joe Biden used it, "Russia has become a global, economic and financial pariah".

This is one of those words that seems to have received more and more usage over the years. It is, like most of the Wednesday Words I post, a very descriptive word that sends more meaning than using a synonym like "outcast". Because I am a big fan of articulatory phonetics: the word starts with a puff of air from the "p", which opens the mouth. The mouth goes together again for the "r", then open again for the "i". This cycle is continued with the mouth again getting close for the formation of the "y", and open for the "ah". If you say the word very slowly, it almost feels like a rollercoaster of a word, at least for your mouth.

So, don't be a pariah.

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