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par·a·digm (părə-dīm, -dĭm)
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n.
1. One that serves as a pattern or model.
2. A set or list of all the inflectional forms of a word or of one of its grammatical categories: the paradigm of an irregular verb.
3. 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.

[Middle English, example, from Late Latin paradīgma, from Greek paradeigma, from paradeiknunai, to compare : para-, alongside; see PARA-1 + deiknunai, to show; see deik- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]

Usage Note: Paradigm first appeared in English in the 1400s, meaning "an example or pattern," and it still bears this meaning today: Their company is a paradigm of the small high-tech firms that have recently sprung up in this area. For nearly 400 years paradigm has also been applied to the patterns of inflections that are used to sort the verbs, nouns, and other parts of speech of a language into groups that are more easily studied. Since the 1960s, paradigm has also been used in science to refer to a theoretical framework, as in a new paradigm for understanding diabetes. This usage was acceptable to 91 percent of the Usage Panel in our 2009 survey. Applications of the term in other contexts show that it can sometimes be used more loosely to mean "the prevailing view of things." The Usage Panel also accepts these nonscientific extensions. In 2009, 74 percent accepted the sentence The paradigm governing international competition and competitiveness has shifted dramatically in the last three decades. This represents a dramatic increase over the 48 percent that accepted the same sentence in 1993.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 

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