A term coined by psychologist Max Dessoir (1867-1947) in Germany in 1889 and picked up by psychical researcher Emile Boirac (1851-1917) and used to refer to "all phenomena produced in living beings or as a result of their action, which do not seem capable of being entirely explained by already known natural laws and forces." According to Boirac, the term "psychical" is not satisfactory because it is synonymous with "mental." The prefix "para" denotes that it relates to exceptional, abnormal, paradoxical phenomena. The term found some acceptance in Germany during the establishment of psychical research.
Boirac, Emile. La Psychologie Inconnue; Introduction et contribution à l'étude expérimentale des sciences psychiques. Paris, 1908. English edition as Psychic Science: An Introduction and Contribution to the Experimental Study of Psychical Phenomena. London, 1918.
Dessoir, Max. "Die Parapsychologie, Eine Entgegnung auf den Artikel 'Der Prophet.' " Sphinx (June 1889): 341-44. Reprinted as "Parapsychology, A Response to the Article 'The Prophet.' " Journal of the Society for Psychical Research 53, 802 (January 1986).