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Paul Name Meaning (Origin, Popularity & Nicknames)

Learn about the name Paul, including the meaning, gender, origin, popularity, and more.

Paul Overview

  • Meaning: Paul comes from the Latin Paulus, meaning “the small one.” It similarly means “little,” “humble,” and “modest.” As an Irish surname, it indicates a “son of Paul,” while Paul means “marsh” and “lagoon” in Spanish.
  • Gender: Paul is traditionally a boy’s name.
  • Origin: Paul originated as the Roman family name Paulus, meaning “small” or “humble.” In the Classical Age, Paul described the younger of two male family members with the same name. Saint Paul was a biblical figure who was originally named Saul and influenced many Christian boys to be named Paul.
  • Pronunciation: Paul is pronounced “PAOL” in English, “POWL” in French, and “PAWL” in German.
  • Popularity: Paul appeared in the top 20 U.S. baby names in 1968, but has generally declined since then. It has recently ranked in the top 300 U.S. boys’ names, yet ranked 7th in Germany in 2015 and 6th in Austria in 2014.
  • Nicknames: Paa, Pal, Palo, Paly, Paulie, Pauly, Pav, Paw, Perry, Pip, Po, Pol, Ollie.
  • Variations: Pablo, Pablu, Paolino, Paolo, Pascha, Paulus, Pavel, Pavo, Pawel, Pawl, Pawłos, Pódhl, Pol, Pouw, Pódhl.
  • Namesakes: Paul Thomas Anderson, American film director known for “Magnolia” (1999). Paul McCartney, English musician and member of The Beatles.

What Does Paul Mean?

Paul derives from the Latin Paulus, meaning “the small one.” It also means “little,” “humble,” and “modest.” In Irish, Paul means “son of Paul” as a patronymic Anglo form of the Gaelic MacPhóil (or McFall). In various Spanish locales, Paul means “marsh” and “lagoon” when based on place names. Paul also appears as Padul, a Portuguese name based on a location.

What Is the Origin of the Name Paul?

Paul dates back to ancient Rome when it appeared as Paullus and Paulus, family names meaning both “small” and “humble.” The name Paullus was used by the noble Gens Aemilia, including Lucius Aemillius Paullus, a Roman general.

In the Classical Age, Paul was given to the younger of two male family members of the same name. Because St. Paul is a prominent figure in the Bible, many Christians named their children Paul instead of Saul, his original name.

Paul became a classic boy’s name in Europe and the Americas but hasn’t been as popular as time goes by.

How Popular Is the Name Paul?

Paul has ranked in the top 300 U.S. boys’ names in the last few years, after falling from the top 200 in 2014. Paul first appeared as a top 20 boys’ name in the U.S. in 1968 but slowly declined afterward. It ranked 13th in 1990 but is not as common as before.

Paul ranked 7th in Germany in 2015 and 6th in Austria in 2014, so it is still valued in many European countries over more modern-sounding names.

How Do I Pronounce Paul?

Paul is pronounced “PAOL” in English, “POWL” in French, and “PAWL” in German.

Is Paul a Boy or Girl Name?

Paul is a boy’s name that is extremely rare for girls.

Variations of Paul

With a classical name like Paul, you’ll see many variations the world over.

  • Pablo (Spanish)
  • Pablu (Austrian)
  • Pal (Albanian)
  • Paolino (Italian)
  • Paolo (Italian)
  • Pascha (Russian)
  • Paulus(Indonesian)
  • Pavel (Czech)
  • Pavo (Croatian)
  • Pawel (Polish)
  • Pawl (Welsh)
  • Pawłos (Armenian)
  • Pódhl (Gaelic)
  • Pol (French)
  • Pouw,(Belgian)

Nicknames for Paul

Here are some Paul nicknames you can use for your adorable little guy.

  • Paa
  • Pal
  • Palo
  • Paly
  • Paulie
  • Pauly
  • Pav
  • Paw
  • Perry
  • Pip
  • Po
  • Pol
  • Ollie

Similar Names to Paul

Most of these traditional names match Paul as a Bible favorite.

Middle Names for Paul

Keep the middle name unique when pairing them up with Paul.

Sibling Names for Paul

A sister or brother to Paul will shine with these complementary names.

Famous People Named Paul

Some of the most famous people in history have been named Paul.

  • Paul Anka: Canadian singer.
  • Paul Bocuse: French chef.
  • Paul Carey: American ice hockey player.
  • Paul Diamond: Croatian wrestler.
  • Paul E. Patton: governor of Kentucky.
  • Paul Ferguson: English rock drummer.
  • Paul Friedberg: American Olympic fencer.
  • Paul Giamatti: American actor.
  • Paul Greengrass: English documentary filmmaker.
  • Paul Henning: American TV producer.
  • Paul Hollywood: English chef and television presenter.
  • Paul Kruger: President of the South African Republic.
  • Paul Langlois: Canadian musician.
  • Paul Levitz: American comic book writer.
  • Paul Nitz: American paralympic athlete.
  • Paul Rudd: American actor.
  • Paul Samuelson: Nobel Prize-winning American economist.
  • Paul Simono: English rock bassist with The Clash.
  • Paul Thériault: Canadian politician.
  • Paul Vachon: Canadian wrestler.

Paul in Popular Culture

Paul appears in many elements of pop culture, from TV and film to video games.

  • Capt. Paul Block: Character in the American sitcom “Car 54, Where Are You?”
  • Paul: Character appearing in “500 Days of Summer.”
  • Paul: Character in “The Grifters” film (1990).
  • Paul: Character in the 1975 French film “The Story of Paul.”
  • Paul: Character in the “Pokémon” anime.
  • Paul: Recurring character in the TV series “American Horror Story.”
  • Paul Atreides: Name of a character in the Dune universe.
  • Paul Buchman: Main character in the TV series “Mad About You.”
  • Paul Connor: Character in the English TV soap opera “Coronation Street.”
  • Paul Cramer: Character in the ABC soap opera “One Life to Live.”
  • Paul Drake: Private detective character in the “Perry Mason” novels.
  • Paul Germani: Character appearing in the American crime series “The Sopranos.”
  • Paul Joshua Pfeiffer: Name of a character in the TV series “The Wonder Years.”
  • Paul Kinsey: Character in the AMC drama series “Mad Men.”
  • Paul Patten: Superhero character in both MLJ Comics and DC comics.
  • Paul Spector: Main character in the Irish TV series “The Fall.”
  • Paul Stark: Character in the 1986 TV series “Mr. Sunshine.”
  • Paul the Refugee Lad: Character in the 1947 film “The Return of Rin Tin Tin.”
  • Paul Truman: Character in the American sitcom “Will & Grace.”
  • Paul Young: Character in the American TV series “Desperate Housewives.”

Paul FAQs

Stay smart about all things surrounding the boy’s name, Paul.

What Is Paul’s Name in Hebrew?

In the Hebrew Bible, Paul was originally named Saul. Another figure named Saul was King Saul, the first king of Israel. Paul comes from the Latin Paulus, meaning “small.” Some claim Saul became Paul in the Bible to relate to Greco-Roman readers.

What Does the Name Paul Mean in Arabic?

The Arabic equivalent to Paul is Boulos. It can also appear as Boulus, Boolos, Bulos, and Bulus. It means “small,” “little,” and “humble,” in addition to “small rock” and “polite.” Boulos is also an Arabic surname, but Paul itself is often confused for the Arabic “baul.” Baul is not a name but a casual Arabic word referring to “urine.”

Why Is Paul a Saint?

The biblical St. Paul is known for being the main contributor to what became the original Christian church. He is remembered for the Letters to the Romans and for his martyrdom, which led to his being a Catholic saint. St. Paul is considered the patron saint of missions, writers, and publishers. His feast day is celebrated on June 29.

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About the Author

Maryana Vestic

Maryana Vestic is a Brooklyn-based writer, editor, and food photographer with a background in entertainment Business Affairs. She studied film at NYU, Irish Theatre Studies at Trinity College Dublin, and has an MFA in Creative Writing Nonfiction from The New School. She loves cooking, baking, hiking, and horror films, as well as running a local baking business in Brooklyn with her boyfriend.