English: Patrick Dempsey at the presentation o...
Patrick Dempsey at the presentation of the film Made of Honor in Madrid. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He’s a timeless classic and an impeccable Irish heritage choice.

Thanks to Lola for suggesting Patrick as our Baby Name of the Day.

There are two possible origins for Patrick:

  • The Latin Patricius, from patrician – a nobleman.
  • Patroclus appears in The Iliad, but he’s generally considered unrelated to Patrick.

But it doesn’t matter, because Patrick means Irishman.

St. Patrick was born wearing another name sometime in the fifth century.  He was a Romano-Briton, shanghai’d by Irish raiders.  He spent six years in captivity, then made his way back home.  He became a bishop, and then a missionary who returned to Ireland and is generally credited with evangelizing all of Ireland.  In his spare time, legend has it that he drove the snakes from the island.  (Never mind that there’s no evidence that snakes ever lived there.)  Popular lore also tells us that Patrick used the shamrock  to explain the holy trinity.

He’s been considered the nation’s patron saint for centuries.  The Irish long felt his name too holy to bestow on a son, but that changed by the 1700s.

Most European languages have a version, from the Italian Patrizio to the Welsh Padrig.  The most common Irish spelling also takes a d – Pádraig – hence the short form Paddy.

Pat is the obvious nickname, but the androgynous option is solidly out of favor today.  Saturday Night Live featured the “It’s Pat!” sketches in the late 80s and early 90s.  Feminine form Patricia was a Top Ten choice for girls from the 1930s into the 1960s, reinforcing the likelihood that Pat could be a she.

Today, Patricia is headed for obscurity.  Patrick has had two good runs in the US Top 100, from 1880 to 1904, and again from 1937 through 2003.  Today he stands at #143.

The best hope for Patrick’s revival is the possibility of using him without a nickname.  If Pat is dated, Patrick feels fresh.  Figures using the full name include:

  • Actor Patrick Dempsey, best known for his work on Gray’s Anatomy.
  • Jean-Luc Picard capably captained the rebooted Star Trek, played by talented actor Patrick Stewart.
  • The late, great Patrick Swayze.
  • The NBA gives us Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing.
  • Bret Easton Ellis used the name for his American Psycho leading man.  Then again, Dexter seems to have been boosted by a fictional serial killer …
  • Founding father Patrick Henry was an attorney and planter, a noted public speaker, and Governor of Virginia.  He’s known for his “Give me Liberty, or give me Death!’ speech.

There are too many Patricks to list over the years.  Then there’s the impact of St. Patrick’s Day.  The March 17 holiday is an excuse for green beer excess in the US, but it is more of a religious observation elsewhere.

Overall, Patrick deserves to be considered as classic as William or David.  He’s a great name, and in our era of two-syllable choices for boys, there’s no reason to worry that he’ll be automatically shortened.  If Aidan and Connor are smash hits, why not Patrick?

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’m not a fan of Pat at all. Neither is my uncle Patrick, who was named after his mother Patricia — she was called Pat & our Patrick HATES being called Pat!

  2. Patrick was one of my earliest name loves — I wonder why it hasn’t been more popular in the US. I have a teenaged cousin Patrick, named after my grandmother, Patricia.

  3. I love Patrick, but as seems to be the case for many people, the nicknames Pat and Paddy are a turnoff. Rick and Ricky aren’t much better, unfortunately.

    I can see Patricia making a resurgence as a middle name as the Patricias of last century become grandmothers and are duly honoured (following your post from a few days ago ;)).

    Interesting factoid-sidenote: Patrick has long been more popular in France than the French form of the name, Patrice, and no one is quite sure why.

    1. I see tons of little girls with Patricia as their middle name in birth announcements – the go-to old fashioned middles seem to be Joan, Susan and Patricia, although I see fair bit of Dorothy as well.

      Patrick has never left the Top 100 in Australia, and hasn’t got any lower than the low 60s. It increased in popularity in 2011. Chances of it “going away and having a rest” here are slim to none! 😉

  4. Love the name Patrick but I have four close relatives with this name. In my Irish family, Patrick always works.

  5. I actually love the name Patrick. When I was a kid I thought Patrick sounded like such a friendly but handsome name, and I never knew anyone who wore it until almost high school. I didn’t realize it felt dated to other people! I’m in the same boat where it’s on my list but strictly off my husband’s. I would use it as a middle name in a heartbeat if I could!

  6. I think it feels a bit dated. It was hardly underused though… I don’t see how you say Connor is a smash hit (having been in the top100 for the last 20 years) and not Patrick (which was top100 for almost 100 years).

    I don’t mind the name but it needs time to rest. But then, I say the same thing about most “classics” that are still well inside the top100… so it might just be me.

    1. I think when compared to the uber classics like William, David or Joseph, its underused. But of course, those names are the definition of overused, so any name that has been very popular like Patrick compared to those names will feel like they are underused. Even if they weren’t.

      Imo, I just wish boy names worked a little bit more like they do on girls. Patricia was a massive top10 hit yet now its way further down than Patrick, and its having its “resting” time. If girl names have their resting time, why can’t most male classics have their resting time too? So yeah, I’m totally on your side when it comes to boy classics needing to go away for a while.

  7. I don’t think it needs a comeback, it only left the top100 in 2005. It needs to go away for a long while before it feels fresh again

  8. Patrick popped up on my list for both of my pregnancies, only to be vetoed immediately by the husband. To me it sounds very preppy – just my style.