Women have worn this name over the past few centuries – but whether they appreciated her quiet qualities, it’s difficult to say.

Thanks to Rachel for suggesting Patience as Name of the Day.

In thinking about True in my last Sunday Summary, I found myself musing about Extreme Virtue Naming. Some choices are mainstream; others are engagingly retro or sophisticated. A few – I’m looking at you, Chastity – seem to tempt fate.

Call Patience somewhere in the middle. She’s not as universal a good as Honor or Hope. But with names like Felicity and Mercy sounding current for the first time since Plymouth Rock, Patience almost fits in.

We all know that the average small child can’t summon much in the way of patience. But is patience an inspiring virtue for a child? From the Latin pati – to suffer – patience carries a whiff of martyrdom. In recent centuries, patience has also meant the ability to endure, lending more appeal to Patience as a modern virtue name. Add in a sense that a patient person is steadfast, and all of a sudden, Patience is a sister to Constance.

Like Grace, she’s a virtue name with a hint of spirituality. Patience is one of the seven heavenly virtues. The quality is extolled in the Qur’an as well as the Old and New Testaments.

Despite two male saints Patiens from the first and fifth centuries, there’s little history of the name’s use until the Puritan era. Patience appeared in the US Top 1000 a few times in the nineteenth century.
Then, after nearly a century out of the rankings, she reappeared in 1994. Patience peaked in 2006 at #579, and as of 2008 charted at #771.
Lest you link her success to parents searching for an alternative to Nevaeh and Faith, remember that 2004 was the year Halle Berry donned black leather to play Catwoman. The film was a box office flop, but it reinvented Catwoman’s backstory. Instead of socialite Selina Kyle, she starts out as a timid worker bee at MegaCorp called Patience Phillips. She risks her life to save an alley cat – only the cat turns out to be the pet of an Egyptian goddess. When Patience meets an untimely demise, the cat returns the favor, rescuing shy Patience and unleashing her inner tiger.
Halle Berry can make anything fashionable – little wonder Patience got a bump from the film.
There’s also:
  • A Gilbert & Sullivan comic opera called Patience, though the name is not worn by any of the characters;
  • Sisters Patience and Prudence McIntyre, a singing duo in the 1950, best remembered for their rendition of “Tonight You Belong To Me”;
  • From Guns N’ Roses to the cast of the musical Dreamgirls, more than one act has recorded a song titled “Patience”;
  • And, of course, the single-player card game solitaire is also known as patience.
Just like a clumsy Grace might find her name troubling, an impetuous Patience might not appreciate the mismatch. Pat and Patty both make for rather dated nicknames.

And yet there’s something sweet about Patience. Fueled by the GNR song and the rise of virtue names in general, Patience doesn’t seem completely outlandish.

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. I named my daughter Patience in 2006 after much debate. I honestly thought I was avant-garde and don’t admit out loud that when I was young Guns and Roses were indeed my favorite band. … However, her nickname is Paige. Unfortunately misheard as Peach sometimes. We also deliberated over Shan. Paige it became. No Pat Patty Patsy nor Paeton. Thanks for the info…I now understand where the martyrdom and drama emanate from when my eight year old switches on whatever will get her way.

  2. Ah, Abby, I was so happy that you did this one! I’ve seriously been on a Patience kick for the last maybe year or so – she never really hits the highlight reel in my head, but she’s always on the outtakes. Maybe it’s a sign? Overall, it seems like a lot of these comments are giving Patience a big N-O, and I see that, I do. It seems a little goofy, but it’s just so soft and lovely and strong all at the same time, right? Right? The nickname thing is a bit of a turn-off, but I suppose she could go without. Pat so isn’t right, and neither is Patty. Patsy? Eh, not for me, but sort of sweet on the right girl. I think Pay, as in Payton, is probably the most modern nickname for Patience, and I could get on board with that.

    I do think I could use exclusively virtue names, or at least Puritan-ish names. Mercy? I’ve liked it for a while, too, and Jennifer? Your Mercy Mary Charlotte is just too fun to say – bravo! Plus, as Abby said, your Bones-inspired moniker would be divine on a future daughter (Speaking of, Patience for the Bones baby? I’d be mighty pleased!). But, in the end, my desire to mis-pronounce the name as Merci is really killing my like of Mercy. I love Prudence, too. Blame Charmed, but Prue is one of the coolest nicknames I’ve ever heard! Remember? Ever since I read a book about The Mayflower on Thanksgiving many moons ago, I’ve been enamored with that one – plus, Remy as a nickname? Divine. I even think Amity is darn cool, if I could get over the Amy (sorry, Abby) nickname and the Amityville Horror connection. Oh! Amity could be Mimi! Yea, she’s cool again. Honor is cool, as is Honora, but I think Hosanna is the best bet. I adore it.

    Because I love Eliza more than anything, Patience would have to be her little sister. But, I could see names like Selah or Lydia or Susannah or, yes, even Mercy for another sister.

  3. I adore Patience! My nephew had a Patience in his class years ago, around 2002. Meeting that young Patience was the beginning of my deep love for virtue names. Now, I have one of my own…my second daughter (born in 2007) is Mercy. (Mercy Mary Charlotte). We adore her name still. We do find that it tends to be polarizing. People either go crazy over it or just don’t get it.

    Over the past few years, I’ve been rather stunned and the majority of people that don’t even know it’s an actual name, let alone it’s rich and long-standing history. But, over the past few years, I’ve also realized just how much more of a name nerd I am that the average Joe…and that MOST people woulldn’t know that (oh, the horror!).

    We had our third daughter this past spring and did not go with a virtue name. But, if we’re ever blessed with a fourth, another virtue is in our top three. Starts with a T and rhymes with Semperance. 😉 Yeah, they might sound puritanical and stiff, but virtue names also convey a tenderness. There’s something romantic and hopeful about them. Optimistic, even.

    1. Mercy Mary Charlotte rocks!

      And thank goodness for blogging, ’cause otherwise I would be convinced that no one else thought about names as much as I do. 🙂

      As for rhymes with Semperance? I love Bones.

  4. I absolutely love the name Patience. My only hang up about Patience as a first name is the lack of nicknames that someone else mentioned. I would hate to name my baby something beautiful like Patience and have it reduced to Patty.

    In general I love virtue names. Prudence, Patience and Mercy all make me swoon.

    To me, Mercy is like a fresh, funky alternative to Mary. It’s spunky and sweet at the same time. Although Prudence is a bit harder to picture being pulled off in real life, I can’t help but adore it.