What Is the Origin of the Surname Patel?

A Last Name Meaning "Headman" in India

Chivas Icons presents Dev Patel. Francois Nel / Staff Getty

A surname with Indian origins, Patel is a very common among people of Indian descent. Meaning a leader or chief, there are a number of variations for Pate as well. If you're searching for ancestry information on this family name, you will find plenty of resources to explore.

What Is the Origin of Patel?

The Patel surname is most commonly of Indian origin. It comes from the Gujarati language, an Indo-European language spoken in the western Indian state of Gujarat.

The Hindu name originally translated as "headman" or "village chief." It can also mean "farmer" from the Gujarati word pat or patlikh, for the owner/tenant of a piece of land. Patel can also be a nickname meaning "little head." It stems from the word "pate" (head) and "-el" (little).

Patel is one of the most common surnames in India. It is also a very popular in Great Britain, the United States, and Canada. The surname has also been modified to "Patil," which is found more commonly in the Portuguese regions of India.

Surname Origin: Indian (Hindu)

Alternate Surname Spellings: Patell, Putel, Putell, Patil, Patill

Famous People Named Patel

The Patel name is so popular in India that there are countless well-known Patels in the world, spanning politics, the arts, sports, and beyond. Though the list is very long, here are a few famous people named Patel.

  • Adam Patel - Member of the British House of Lords
  • Aditya Patel - Indian racecar driver
  • Alpesh Patel - American film director
  • Dev Patel - British actor
  • Dinesh Patel - American baseball player
  • Harish Patel - Indian actor
  • Ravji Patel - Indian poet and novelist
  • Upen Patel - Bollywood actor and model

Genealogy Resources for the Surname Patel

Researching your family history is a big task and with a name as common as Patel, it can be even more challenging. These resources may help in your quest.

Patel DNA Surname Project - The Patel DNA surname project is open to anyone with the last name Patel, regardless of the spelling. The intent is to combine traditional document-based genealogy research with DNA testing.

Patel Family Crest: It's Not What You Think - There is not a dedicated Patel family crest or coat of arms. Contrary to popular belief, these traditional symbols are not assigned to a family, but to individuals. Once a deserving person is granted one, it is passed down through a line of male descendants.

FamilySearch: PATEL Genealogy - Access 870,000 free historical records and lineage-linked family trees posted for the Patel surname and its variations. This is a free genealogy website hosted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

PATEL Surname & Family Mailing Lists - RootsWeb hosts several free mailing lists for those researching the Patel surname. In addition to joining a list, you can browse or search the archives to explore previous posts.

GeneaNet: Patel Records - GeneaNet includes archival records, family trees, and other resources for individuals with the Patel surname. It concentrates on records and families from France and other European countries.

The Patel Genealogy and Family Tree Page - Browse genealogy records and links to genealogical and historical records for individuals with the Patel surname from the website of Genealogy Today.


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Hanks P. Dictionary of American Family Names. New York, NY: Oxford University Press; 2003.

Smith EC. American Surnames. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Company; 1997.