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Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Paracosm (n.) is defined as: a prolonged fantasy world invented by children; can have a definite geography and language and history.1  The word paracosm was coined by Ben Vincent in 1976. Ben Vincent was a participant for a study done by Robert Silvey for the BBC where he first mentioned the word in trying to explain what kind of hobbies he had.2 The meaning of the word para which is typically a word forming element means “altered, beyond, alongside” and comes from the Greek word para which means “beside, near, issuing from”.3  The word cosm is also a word forming element that comes from the Latinized form of the Greek word kosmos which means “world or universe”.4
A paracosm is a world of understanding, created from our imagination.  As we explore and probe our ideas and thoughts we begin to learn about the life we desire, the life that fascinates us.  Commonly people, especially children will capture this life; these thoughts and dreams and create an extensive fantasy world.  A world with its own language, geography, and history.  A world where the inhabitants are invented and the surroundings are perfectly imagined.     

A paracosm is freedom from the flaws of humanity.  It is a complex representation of what an individual has come to learn about their life.  It is a world that is in perfect control and order.  To explore someone’s paracosm is to delve into their conscious and unconscious dream place.  A place where nothing is unexpected and everything is accepted. A place of perfection, where even the created flaws are regulated.     

A paracosm is often experienced as a kid, because that is when we take the information about our surroundings and create new worlds in an attempt to understand our own.  Our imagination is built up and nourished through this gift of creating paracosms.  To develop a system of societies suggests a recognition of the global community and its value in improving our quality of life.  It also suggests one’s ability to see a different perspective.  Creating a world, means creating opposites, differences, and problems.  Those who create paracosms have the ability to establish a unique skill;  learning from those who do not agree with you.     

To become so immersed in a created world with perfectly proportioned flaws and joys that the world seems real, is to find that you have stumbled upon a paracosm.  Maybe you have opened a book and fallen into the world of Gondal.  Created by Emily Brontë and Anne Brontë as young children in 1820 and working alongside Angria, a world created by their older siblings Charlotte Brontë and Branwell Brontë.  The first mention of the two worlds is found in a diary entry of Emily’s and mentions through poetry a set of languages, cities, and islands.5

A section from Emily Brontë's note book first mentioning Gondal.6

A poem by Emily Brontë that illustrate the kind of world that Gondal is.6

A map of Gondal, the world created by Emily and Anne Brontë.6
Or perhaps you have grown up with famous worlds as a kid, such as the hidden World of Wizardry in Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling, or the extraordinary Middle Earth from Lord of the rings.  Or perhaps you have created your own world with a series of extraordinary details.  Maybe steampunk insects or people who wear fantastical outfits or perhaps a world with different laws, where impossible things happen everyday. 


1. Paracosm. Dictionary.com. Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. HarperCollins Publishers. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/paracosm (accessed: November 18, 2012).

2. David Cohen and Stephen MacKeith, The Development of Imagination: The Private Worlds of Childhood (Concepts in Developmental Psychology). Routledge, 1992.

3. Etymonline.com. Etymology Online. Dan McCormack.http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=cosmo- (accessed: November 18, 2012).

4. Etymonline.com. Etymology Online. Dan McCormack. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=para- (accessed: November 18, 2012). 

5. The Poetry Foundation. Winthrop University. Siobhan Craft Brownson. http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/emily-jane-bronte (accessed: November 18, 2012).

6. The Brontës’ Secret sciende fiction stories. British Library. http://pressandpolicy.bl.uk/Press-Releases/The-Brontës-secret-science-fiction-stories-4e7.aspx (accessed: November 18, 2012).

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