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Saint Patrick's or St. Patrick's? Paddy or Patty?

March 13, 2014

Wherever you go and whatever you do, may the luck of the Irish be there with you.

—Irish blessing

March 17 is St. Patrick's Day, and for the past few days we've been busy getting our St. Patrick's Day materials ready. As I was editing our older material, I had to decide whether to spell this holiday as Saint or St. Patrick's Day. Also, I had to find out if this holiday's nickname should be spelled Paddy or Patty. I found the answers interesting, so I thought I'd share them with my fellow English-language lovers!

Saint or St.?

St. Patrick's Day = correct (and more popular)

Saint Patrick's Day = correct

Both Saint Patrick’s Day and St. Patrick's Day are correct, but which is more common? The Chicago Manual of Style states that both are possible, and to choose one form and be consistent. The next thing I did was to look up both variations in Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Current English, since that is the dictionary we follow in our style guide. MW's had an entry for Saint Patrick's Day, but not for St. Patrick's Day, even though they list other saints as St. (St. Denis, for example). But after talking to the rest of the team and realizing we all grew up seeing St. Patrick's Day, I decided to run a Google Ngram on these two terms to find out which was more common in literature.

A screenshot from Google book Ngram Viewer showing more results for St. Patrick's Day than Saint Patrick's Day

Clearly, St. Patrick's Day is more common in literature, so that's what we decided to stick with in our materials! A quick googlebattle.com check confirmed that St. Patrick's Day also appears far more often on the web.

A chart from GoogleBattle that shows St. Patrick's Day with 329,000,000 results, compared to Saint Patrick's Day with 35,000,000

Note: Don't forget that the word Day is always capitalized in holiday names!

Paddy or Patty?

St. Paddy's Day = correct

St. Patty's Day = incorrect

Before I did some digging for this blog post, I assumed that Patty was the correct spelling of St. Patrick's nickname, and that people wrote Paddy in error (because /t/ is always pronounced /d/ between two vowels…think of how you say water). But this is NOT the case! Paddy is correct, because it is based on the Irish boy's name Pàdraig (the English version is Patrick). I learned that the Irish dislike when people write Patty (this is short for Patricia, a girl's name), so be sure to spell it Paddy and St. Paddy's Day from now on. Thanks to paddynotpatty.com for their humorous summary of these rules!

St. Patrick's Day Resources

ESL Lesson Plans and Resources for Teaching about St. Patrick's Day and Luck: Find a Lucky Idioms poster, beginner & intermediate lesson plans, podcasts, flashcards, and more!

Happy St. Paddy's Day!

Tanya

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Comments (2)

Karen Oliveira(Guest)

Thank you for this information. It is intresting. Although we always played St. Patrick´s Day at school by dressing up and such, I knew very little about it so I have been doing some research too.

Reply to Comment

Tanya Trusler(Author)

You're very welcome, Karen! I learned so much about it when I edited our St. Patrick's Day lessons. It's always interesting to find out the history behind the holiday!
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