ETYM French, from paper to ward off, guard + chute a fall. Related to Parry, and Chute, Chance.
A device that fills with air and retards one's fall; SYN. chute.
Any canopied fabric device strapped to a person or a package, used to slow down descent from a high altitude, or returning spent missiles or parts to a safe speed for landing, or sometimes to aid (through braking) the landing of a plane or missile. Modern designs enable the parachutist to exercise considerable control of direction, as in skydiving.
Leonardo da Vinci sketched a parachute design, but the first descent, from a balloon at a height of 670 m/2,200 ft over Paris, was not made until 1797 by André-Jacques Garnerin (1769–1823). The first descent from an aircraft was made by Capt Albert Berry 1912 from a height of 457 m/1,500 ft over Missouri.
A parachute is typically folded into a pack from which it is released by a rip cord or other device. It originally consisted of some two dozen panels of silk (later nylon) in a circular canopy with shroud lines to a harness. Modern parachutes are variously shaped, often small and rectangular.
In parascending the parachuting procedure is reversed, the canopy (parafoil) to which the person is attached being towed behind a vehicle to achieve an ascent.