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[pat-ern; British pat-n] /ˈpæt ərn; British ˈpæt n/
a decorative design, as for wallpaper, china, or textile fabrics, etc.
decoration or ornament having such a design.
a natural or chance marking, configuration, or design:
patterns of frost on the window.
a distinctive style, model, or form:
a new pattern of army helmet.
a combination of qualities, acts, tendencies, etc., forming a consistent or characteristic arrangement:
the behavior patterns of teenagers.
an original or model considered for or deserving of imitation:
Our constitution has been a pattern for those of many new republics.
anything fashioned or designed to serve as a model or guide for something to be made:
a paper pattern for a dress.
a sufficient quantity of material for making a garment.
the path of flight established for an aircraft approaching an airport at which it is to land.
a diagram of lines transmitted occasionally by a television station to aid in adjusting receiving sets; test pattern.
Metallurgy. a model or form, usually of wood or metal, used for giving the shape of the interior of a mold.
Numismatics. a coin, either the redesign of an existing piece or the model for a new one, submitted for authorization as a regular issue.
an example, instance, sample, or specimen.
Gunnery, Aerial Bombing.
  1. the distribution of strikes around a target at which artillery rounds have been fired or on which bombs have been dropped.
  2. a diagram showing such distribution.
verb (used with object)
to make or fashion after or according to a pattern.
to cover or mark with a pattern.
Chiefly British Dialect.
  1. to imitate.
  2. to attempt to match or duplicate.
verb (used without object)
to make or fall into a pattern.
1325-75; Middle English patron < Medieval Latin patrōnus model, special use of Latin patrōnus patron
Related forms
patternable, adjective
patterned, adjective
patterner, noun
patternless, adjective
patternlike, adjective
patterny, adjective
nonpatterned, adjective
repattern, verb (used with object)
semipatterned, adjective
subpattern, noun
unpatterned, adjective
1. figure. 4. kind, sort. 6. example, exemplar. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for patterns
  • These ridges form, in different individuals, distinctive and permanent patterns which can be used for purposes of identification.
  • There is no reason that all human existence should be constructed on some one or some small number of patterns.
  • The meaning of these and other older engravings depicting geometric patterns remains a mystery.
  • The major patterns of evolution are not predictable.
  • He noticed what seemed to be patterns of faint scratches on the marble walls.
  • There's also the human-to-human connection with bookmobile librarians, who steer and inspire their visitors' reading patterns.
  • As patterns of use change, some universities are trying new approaches that have information specialists leaving the building.
  • Are you talking about voting patterns, or are you talking about the general tenor and culture of the place.
  • And it is easily engaged by sensational singular events, rather than by long-term mundane patterns.
  • My new job, however, has really changed my patterns.
British Dictionary definitions for patterns


an arrangement of repeated or corresponding parts, decorative motifs, etc: although the notes seemed random, a careful listener could detect a pattern
a decorative design: a paisley pattern
a style: various patterns of cutlery
a plan or diagram used as a guide in making something: a paper pattern for a dress
a standard way of moving, acting, etc: traffic patterns
a model worthy of imitation: a pattern of kindness
a representative sample
a wooden or metal shape or model used in a foundry to make a mould
  1. the arrangement of marks made in a target by bullets
  2. a diagram displaying such an arrangement
verb (transitive)
often foll by after or on. to model
to arrange as or decorate with a pattern
Word Origin
C14 patron, from Medieval Latin patrōnus example, from Latin: patron1


(Irish) an outdoor assembly with religious practices, traders' stalls, etc on the feast day of a patron saint
Word Origin
C18: variant of patron1; see pattern1
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
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Word Origin and History for patterns



early 14c., "outline, plan, model, pattern;" early 15c. as "model of behavior, exemplar," from Old French patron and directly from Medieval Latin patronus (see patron).

Extended sense of "decorative design" first recorded 1580s, from earlier sense of a "patron" as a model to be imitated. The difference in form and sense between patron and pattern wasn't firm till 1700s. Meaning "model or design in dressmaking" (especially one of paper) is first recorded 1792, in Jane Austen.


1580s, "to make a pattern for, design, plan," from pattern (n.). Meaning "to make something after a pattern" is c.1600. Phrase pattern after "take as a model" is from 1878.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for patterns


Related Terms

in a holding pattern

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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