Paradigm first appeared in English in the 1400s, meaning “an example or pattern,” and it still bears this meaning today: Their company is a paradigm of the small high-tech firms that have recently sprung up in this area. For nearly 400 years paradigm has also been applied to the patterns of inflections that are used to sort the verbs, nouns, and other parts of speech of a language into groups that are more easily studied. Since the 1960s, paradigm has also been used in science to refer to a theoretical framework, as in a new paradigm for understanding diabetes. This usage was acceptable to 91 percent of the Usage Panel in our 2009 survey. Applications of the term in other contexts show that it can sometimes be used more loosely to mean “the prevailing view of things.
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