Definition: Prolonged fantasy world; often has a definite geography, language or history.
This is a very young word and is considered to be modern English, having first been coined in a 1976 study.
The prefix “Para” when attached to English root nouns can mean one of two things. It could mean simply “Resembling “, or it is also used in the naming of occupational roles considered secondary or lesser to roles requiring more training. (Paralegal, paramedic etc.)
Cosm means simply “Universe or World”. When the two are brought together in Paracosm we are presented with two interesting possibilities that both connect to the word’s current meaning.
Paracosm could mean “Resembling World” or it could also mean “A world that is subsidiary to the real world.”
Either way, it’s a fantasy world.
Why this word?
This word is fascinating, not only for the topic that it deals with, but also because there’s actually a specific word for what most of us call, “Make-Believe”.
Many psychiatrists consider paracosms to be a way that people deal with personal loss or tragedy. People create complex worlds with completely original context to escape a reality that they can’t deal with. Let’s not forget that these are prolonged fantasy worlds, meaning that they are imaginary lands that people consider themselves to be an active and participating citizen of for an extended period of time. Sometimes their entire lives. These worlds include original geography, language or history. All of which puts a new light on a lot of classic stories, like the fact that J.M Barrie created Neverland, a place that’s located on “The second star to the right”: or that J.R.R Tolkien’s, Lord of the Rings includes over 24 original languages (15 of which are Elvin). No doubt these people were visionaries, but what inspired or necessitated their insanely detailed visions?
There is another application of this word. There are studies that show children often invent paracosms as a way of orienting themselves in reality. That means making up imaginary friends and playing “Let’s Pretend” as a way of understanding every day life.
Don’t worry though; playing pretend isn’t always about trying to cope with a horrible loss or try to understand the world around you. Sometimes it’s just for fun. In fact Paracosm play is recognized as an indicator of a high level of intelligence. So that world you imagined as a kid where alligators formed an autocratic government in the land of Jell-O and the currency is Dr. Seuss books? That’s basically your unofficial Bachelor’s Degree my friend.
How to use paracosm in a sentence?
Paracosm is a noun, so it is generally the object of the sentence.
“Jimmy is so involved with his paracosm that he can’t distinguish between it and reality anymore.”