What exactly is a pariah?

Lately I’ve observed that the word pariah /┬ápuh RYE uh/ enjoys great popularity as a headline word, but judging by my trusty daily trivia quiz, not many readers know what it means.

Here are some recent headlines that contain the word pariah, but which are followed by stories in which the word is not used.

North Carolina’s pariah party
Padma Lakshmi is No Party Pariah
Pool Party Pariah
Republicans Make Akin Pariah to Spare Romney Anti-Women Tag

The meaning of pariah as used in these headlines is “outcast” or “person no one wants to associate with.” A similar term is the Latin persona non grata.

Originally, the term Pariah referred to a member of a tribe of South India. Members of this tribe came to be the laborers who worked in unsanitary occupations. In India’s former caste system, these people were on the lowest rung of the social hierarchy. Eventually, the meaning of pariah expanded to mean anyone or anything shunned and avoided by the majority.

A pariah dog is a half-wild stray dog that lives by scavenging.

Pariah dogs in India –from the blog hasnas.com










A pariah state is a nation whose conduct is considered by the rest of the international community to be out of line with international norms of behavior.

Current and former “pariah states” –Wikipedia commons