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verb (used with object), pat·ted, pat·ting.
  1. to strike lightly or gently with something flat, as with a paddle or the palm of the hand, usually in order to flatten, smooth, or shape: to pat dough into flat pastry forms.
  2. to stroke or tap gently with the palm or fingers as an expression of affection, approbation, etc.
  3. to strike (the floor, ground, etc.) with light footsteps.
verb (used without object), pat·ted, pat·ting.
  1. to strike lightly or gently.
  2. to walk or run with light footsteps.
  1. a light stroke, tap, or blow with the palm, fingers, or a flat object.
  2. the sound of a light stroke or of light footsteps.
  3. a small piece or mass, usually flat and square, formed by patting, cutting, etc.: a pat of butter.
  1. a pat on the back, a word of praise, congratulations, or encouragement: Everyone needs a pat on the back now and then.
  2. pat down, to pat or pass the hands over the body of (a clothed person) to detect concealed weapons, drugs, etc.
  3. pat on the back, to praise, congratulate, or encourage: The boss patted him on the back for the deal he made yesterday.

Origin of pat1

1375–1425; late Middle English pat blow, stroke, apparently of expressive orig.
Related formsun·pat·ted, adjective


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8. square, cake, dab.


  1. exactly to the point or purpose; apt; opportune: a pat solution to a problem.
  2. excessively glib; unconvincingly facile: His answers were too pat to suit the examining board.
  3. learned, known, or mastered perfectly or exactly: to have something pat.
  1. exactly or perfectly.
  2. aptly; opportunely.
  1. down pat, mastered or learned perfectly: If you're an actor, you have to get your lines down pat.Also down cold.
  2. stand pat,
    1. to cling or hold firm to one's decision, policy, or beliefs: The government must stand pat in its policy.
    2. Poker.to play a hand as dealt, without drawing other cards.

Origin of pat2

1570–80; orig. adverbial use of pat1, as obsolete to hit pat to strike accurately
Related formspat·ness, nounpat·ter, noun


  1. a male given name, form of Patrick.
  2. a female given name, form of Patricia.


  1. Football. point after touchdown; points after touchdown.
  2. Banking. preauthorized automatic transfer.


  1. patent.
  2. patented.


  1. Anne Elizabeth O'Hare,1882–1954, U.S. journalist, born in England.
  2. Cyrus Hall,1809–84, U.S. inventor, especially of harvesting machinery.
  3. PatriciaPat, born 1930, U.S. diver.
  4. Robert Rutherford,1880–1955, U.S. newspaper publisher.


[nik-suh n]
  1. Richard M(il·hous) [mil-hous] /ˈmɪl haʊs/, 1913–94, 37th president of the U.S., 1969–74 (resigned).
  2. his wifeThelma Catherine RyanPat, 1912–93, U.S. First Lady 1969–74.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for pat


verb pats, patting or patted
  1. to hit (something) lightly with the palm of the hand or some other flat surfaceto pat a ball
  2. to slap (a person or animal) gently, esp on the back, as an expression of affection, congratulation, etc
  3. (tr) to shape, smooth, etc, with a flat instrument or the palm
  4. (intr) to walk or run with light footsteps
  5. pat someone on the back informal to congratulate or encourage someone
  1. a light blow with something flat
  2. a gentle slap
  3. a small mass of somethinga pat of butter
  4. the sound made by a light stroke or light footsteps
  5. pat on the back informal a gesture or word indicating approval or encouragement

Word Origin

C14: perhaps imitative


  1. Also: off pat exactly or fluently memorized or masteredhe recited it pat
  2. opportunely or aptly
  3. stand pat
    1. mainly US and Canadianto refuse to abandon a belief, decision, etc
    2. (in poker, etc) to play without adding new cards to the hand dealt
  1. exactly right for the occasion; apta pat reply
  2. too exactly fitting; gliba pat answer to a difficult problem
  3. exactly righta pat hand in poker

Word Origin

C17: perhaps adverbial use (``with a light stroke'') of pat 1


  1. on one's pat Australian informal alone; on one's own

Word Origin

C20: rhyming slang, from Pat Malone


  1. an informal name for an Irishman

Word Origin

from Patrick


  1. Cyrus Hall. 1809–84, US inventor of the reaping machine (1831)


  1. Richard M (ilhous). 1913–94, US Republican politician; 37th president from 1969 until he resigned over the Watergate scandal in 1974
Derived FormsNixonian (nɪkˈsəʊnɪən), adjective
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for pat


c.1400, "a blow, stroke," perhaps originally imitative of the sound of patting. Meaning "light tap with hand" is from c.1804. Sense of "that which is formed by patting" (as in pat of butter) is 1754, probably from the verb. Pat on the back in the figurative sense attested by 1804.


"aptly, suitably, at the right time," 1570s, perhaps from pat (adj.) in sense of "that which hits the mark," a special use from pat (n.) in sense of "a hitting" of the mark. The modern adjective is 1630s, from the adverb.


1560s, "to hit, throw;" meaning "to tap or strike lightly" is from 1714; from pat (n.). Related: Patted; patting. The nursery rhyme phrase pat-a-cake is known from 1823. Alternative patty-cake (usually American English) is attested from 1794 (in "Mother Goose's Melody, or Sonnets for the Cradle," Worcester, Mass.).


as a fem. proper name, short for Patricia. As a masc. proper name, short for Patrick; hence a nickname for any Irishman.


surname, variant of Nickson, literally "son of (a man named) Nick, English familiar form of Nicholas.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with pat


In addition to the idiom beginning with pat

also see:

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.