Word of the Day


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Origin of the word

The word paradigm derives from Greek and Latin and has been in use since the 15th century. In Greek, ‘para’ meaning ‘beside’ and ‘deiknynai’ meaning ‘to display or show’ were combined to form ‘paradeiknyai’, which possessed the literal meaning ‘to display side by side’ (1) (2). The Latin word ‘paradigma’ was used to refer to ‘a model or pattern’, which is still one of the formal meanings of the word paradigm today (1).

Related words: paradigmatic, paradigmatical, paradigm shift [a noticeable change in the paradigm (2) of a particular discipline, especially a scientific one].


Since the early 1970s, the application of the concept of paradigm shift has become increasingly common:

“A scientific revolution occurs, according to Kuhn, when scientists encounter anomalies which cannot be explained by the universally accepted paradigm and the scientific discipline is thrown into a state of crisis. New ideas, perhaps ones previously discarded, are tried. An intellectual ‘battle’ takes place between the followers of the new paradigm and the hold-outs of the old paradigm. After a given discipline has changed from one paradigm to another, this is called, in Kuhn’s terminology, a scientific revolution or a paradigm shift.” Research Journal of Social Sciences. 2008: The influence of the dominant linguistic paradigm on language teaching (2).

“A new treatment for advanced skin cancer has been hailed as a paradigm shift after it boosted one year survival chances from just one in ten to almost three in four.” Telegraph. 3rd June 2014: New skin cancer drug hailed “paradigm shift” in treatment (2).

“‘It is often assumed that different types of jellyfish [stings] might need different treatments,’ said Dr Tom Doyle from the National University of Ireland, Galway. ‘Well, that was the old paradigm. What we, NUI Galway and University of Hawaii, have shown is that vinegar and hot water is the best treatment for [stings by] three very different jellyfish that are as different from each other as a dog and a snake — the Lion’s Mane, the Portuguese Man of War and a Box jellyfish.’” BBC. 27th July 2017: Irish scientists test best way to treat jellyfish stings (1) (2).


1. a typical example or model of something
2. a set of ideas that are used for understanding or explaining something, especially in a particular subject
3. the complete set of the different forms of a word, for example student, student’s, students and students’

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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