[ pat ]
See synonyms for pat on
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.

  1. 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.

  1. a small piece or mass, usually flat and square, formed by patting, cutting, etc.: a pat of butter.

Idioms about pat

  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.

  1. pat on the back, to praise, congratulate, or encourage: The boss patted him on the back for the deal he made yesterday.

Origin of pat

First recorded in 1375–1425; late Middle English pat “blow, stroke,” apparently of expressive origin

Other words for pat

Other words from pat

  • un·pat·ted, adjective

Other definitions for pat (2 of 5)

[ pat ]

  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.

  1. learned, known, or mastered perfectly or exactly: to have something pat.

  1. exactly or perfectly.

  2. aptly; opportunely.

Origin of pat

First recorded in 1570–80; originally adverbial use of pat1, as obsolete to hit pat “to strike accurately”

Other words from pat

  • patness, noun
  • patter, noun

Other definitions for Pat (3 of 5)

[ pat ]

  1. a male given name, form of Patrick.

  2. a female given name, form of Patricia.

Other definitions for PAT (4 of 5)


  1. Football. point after touchdown; points after touchdown.

  2. Banking. preauthorized automatic transfer.

Other definitions for pat. (5 of 5)


  1. patent.

  2. patented. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use pat in a sentence

  • pat Malone, you are fined five dollars for assault and battery on Mike Sweeney.

  • I'm somewhat puzzled to know why they didn't stand pat and make a clean job of us both.

    Raw Gold | Bertrand W. Sinclair
  • Henry gave his younger sister a gentle pat, as she returned with her workbag and fished for the chalk.

    The Box-Car Children | Gertrude Chandler Warner
  • “He was worth saving,” remarked Stanley, stooping to pat the meek head of the dog.

  • The branches seem to pat the house lovingly and to protect the children when the sun is too hot or the rain comes down too fast.

    Seven O'Clock Stories | Robert Gordon Anderson

British Dictionary definitions for pat (1 of 4)


/ (pæt) /

verbpats, patting or patted
  1. to hit (something) lightly with the palm of the hand or some other flat surface: to pat a ball

  2. to slap (a person or animal) gently, esp on the back, as an expression of affection, congratulation, etc

  1. (tr) to shape, smooth, etc, with a flat instrument or the palm

  2. (intr) to walk or run with light footsteps

  3. pat someone on the back informal to congratulate or encourage someone

  1. a light blow with something flat

  2. a gentle slap

  1. a small mass of something: a pat of butter

  2. the sound made by a light stroke or light footsteps

  3. pat on the back informal a gesture or word indicating approval or encouragement

Origin of pat

C14: perhaps imitative

British Dictionary definitions for pat (2 of 4)


/ (pæt) /

  1. Also: off pat exactly or fluently memorized or mastered: he recited it pat

  2. opportunely or aptly

  1. stand pat

    • mainly US and Canadian to refuse to abandon a belief, decision, etc

    • (in poker, etc) to play without adding new cards to the hand dealt

  1. exactly right for the occasion; apt: a pat reply

  2. too exactly fitting; glib: a pat answer to a difficult problem

  1. exactly right: a pat hand in poker

Origin of pat

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

British Dictionary definitions for pat (3 of 4)


/ (pæt) /

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

Origin of pat

C20: rhyming slang, from Pat Malone

British Dictionary definitions for Pat (4 of 4)


/ (pæt) /

  1. an informal name for an Irishman

Origin of Pat

from Patrick

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

Other Idioms and Phrases with pat


In addition to the idiom beginning with pat

  • pat on the back

also see:

  • stand pat

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