Baby Name Patrick: The name of the day
You may or may not know this, but the patron saint whose name became almost synonymous with Ireland was neither Irish nor born with the name Patrick. He was in fact a fourth century Briton christened Sucat. His dramatic story includes being kidnapped as a boy by pirates and taken to Ireland at the age of 16, where he worked as a slave shepherd for six years. When he eventually escaped, he trained as a priest, probably in France, determined to return to Ireland to convert the pagan population. It was after he was ordained that he changed his name to Patrick, Latin for ‘nobleman.’
He went to Tara, the seat of the Irish kings and pagan Druid priests, whom he debated and overcame, supposedly plucking a shamrock from the ground and using its three leaves to explain the Trinity to the kings. He then traveled the country making further converts until, by the time of his death in 463, most of Ireland had been converted to Christianity.
But instead of his name spreading as well, the opposite happened: the names Patrick and the Irish form Pádraig were held in such high esteem that they were not used as first names until the 17th century (this was not true in Scotland, where is it was common in early times). But by the 19th century, Patrick was so widespread that it came to be considered a generic Irish name.
This was true in America as well, as it was especially associated with the Irish immigrants who arrived in great numbers from 1840 through the early years of the 20th century. Flashing forward to today, where does Patrick stand?
Well, it’s still in the Top 20 in Ireland (#19), but in the U.S. it currently ranks #127, the lowest it’s been since 1928, having dropped out of the Top 100 six years ago. (Its highpoint was the mid-1960s Pat Boone era, when it reached the Top 30.) Its steady fall is surprising in view of the hunky namesakes it’s had over the past few decades—Patrick Swayze dirty danced in 1987 and Patrick Dempsey became McDreamy in 2005. Plus there are any number of notable football and basketball heroes for inspiration, and of course the towering historical figure, Patrick Henry.
Most contemporary Patricks are called Patrick, as old nicknames like the unisex Pat (thank SNL for that) and Patsy and the Irish Paddy have faded, not to mention the occasionally used Rick. We think that, taken in full, Patrick has not only regained some of its old energy and spunk, but is beginning to embody its definition– and is also sounding patrician.
And in addition to the original Latin Patricus (also used by the Dutch) and authentic Gaelic Pádraig and Páraic, other attractive international versions abound—the French Patrice (though Patrick is heard there as well), the Italian Patrizio and Spanish Patricio, the Polish Patek and the Slavic Patrik—all worthy of consideration.
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on March 17th, 2010 at 2:24 am
Great blog. This name has always had a special place in my heart, as my dad is Patrick (Pat for short). I love the name for its classic Irish roots, and the fact that it’s linked to my father makes me love it that much more. I plan on using it as a middle name for a future son. I feel like Patrick hasn’t been as popular lately due to lack of viable nicknames. It doesn’t have a “cool” nickname like Will, Nick, Charlie, etc. But maybe it will pick up in popularity like other stylish full names, a la Oliver, James, and Henry.
I don’t know any little Patrick’s, but I do know an adorable 2-year-old named Padraig, Paddy for short. The family is very Irish, and his name suits him well. I think this would be a great, fresh choice, especially for families with Irish roots.
Pamela Redmond Satran Said
on March 17th, 2010 at 7:14 am
I love the name Patrick! But Patricia, which was epidemic when I was a kid, is a name I particularly dislike, maybe because so many people call me Pat instead of Pam.
on March 17th, 2010 at 8:21 am
Of course, In Ireland today the name is more associated with Patrick Pearse than the saint…I’m actually a fan of the Irish version Padraig (“Paw-rig”), which Pearse used on signing the 1916 Proclamation.
on March 17th, 2010 at 10:09 am
Patrick is not a favorite of mine (I know, I know, I shouldn’t say that especially on 3/17), but it is the name of a favorite person of mine, so it evens out some. I don’t dislike it either, it’s just not one that I love. The voiceless p, t, and ck are part of the problem for me – it sounds kind of prickly. My good friend, Patrick, is English and goes by Paddy and also Pad for short. It is not a nn that works well in the States, after all, the iPad is getting a ton of ridicule for its name. But now I kind of prefer it to Pat, which is a verb and also has an abrupt sound, Pad is softer. Padraig sounds like a great compromise, except that there would be pronunciation issues in the States (I just learned – thanks punkprincessphd!)… in all I give Patrick a warm welcome, but I doubt it will ever be a favorite name of mine.
on March 17th, 2010 at 11:05 am
I love both Patrick and Padraig. I prefer Padraig, but as JNE mentioned, the pronunciation issues might cause problems here. I also like the nickname Paddy, and would use it for both names. I’ve always liked this name, and known a couple of super hot guys named Patrick (who both went by their full names) that may have had something to do with it!
on March 17th, 2010 at 11:12 am
I’m not a huge fan of ‘pat’ names, but I really enjoyed the history! How interesting that he used a shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity!
on March 17th, 2010 at 11:44 am
When I lived in Ireland, one of my closest friends there was a Patrick. His sister calls him Padraig, though, which, in the Irish accent, sounds more like “POOR-ig”. I like that a lot and think it’s really unique.
on March 17th, 2010 at 1:47 pm
When Dawson’s Creek was one, I was expecting “Pacey” (a character’s name) to become a Patrick nickname, which I still think would be kind of cute…
on March 18th, 2010 at 11:49 am
I can’t believe Patrick is so low in ranking in the US. It seems much more popular to me. I don’t know many babies named Patrick, but there are certainly relatively young children around with the name. I actually like it a lot. It’s classic but not pretentious. I’d use it, it’s actually my BIL’s name, but I don’t want to start a pattern with the ‘P’s!’
on April 4th, 2010 at 7:35 pm
so… Patrick is not (at least in fermanagh, where i’m form) associated with Patrick Pearse rather than the Saint. My niece’s birthday is st patricks day and my (deep breath) brother-in-laws best friends mother (of course, his best friend is also my brother in law but that is easier to follow… i think) was outraged that she wasn’t called patricha and wouldn’t speek to them for weeks.
Patsy is more a girls nickname.
It alternates with age… When you’re young its Patrick and you could go out onto the street and shout packy and rather than lots of offended people (as I experienced in London one day) you get about 6 teenage boys looking at you expectantly.I have Three Uncle Paddy’s (Mum, Step Mum , Step Dad) my sisters all have paddy’s as friends and then when you’re much older it shortens to just Pat…
In my part Padraig is pronouced with the d mostly..
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