Definition -
(1) A symbol or character (now usually ¶ or ?) formerly used to mark the commencement of a new section or part of a narrative or discourse; now, sometimes introducing an editorial obiter dictum or protest, and sometimes as a reference to a marginal note or foot-note.    Its original use is common in Middle English MSS. (where the form is often a red or blue ‹para2›, ‹fatpara› or ‹para3›, ‹para4›). It was retained by the early printers, and remains in the Bible of 1611 (but only as far as Acts xx), no doubt because every verse begins a new line, so that the method of indicating a paragraph by ‘indenting’ (as done by Tindale, Coverdale, and the Revisers of 1881–5) was not available. (OED)

(2) A distinct passage or section of a discourse, chapter, or book, dealing with a particular point of the subject, the words of a distinct speaker, etc., whether consisting of one sentence or of a number of sentences that are more closely connected with each other than with what stands before and after.

Such a passage was at first usually indicated by the mark described above; but afterwards, as now, by beginning on a new line, which is indented or set back by the space of an ‘em-quad’, and ends without running on to the next passage; hence, in reference to typography or manuscript, a paragraph is a portion of the text between two such breaks; but, in a less technical sense, it is sometimes applied to any passage which, from its nature, might or ought to be so indicated in writing or printing. (OED)

Etymology -
The term derives from the Italian paragrafo, which ultimately derives from the Greek paragraphos (πα?άγ?αϕος) which denoted a short horizontal stroke drawn below the beginning of a line in which a break in the sense occurs.

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