In Life of Pi, what is the significance of Pi's unusual name?

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Pi shortened his name from "Piscine" because others teased him by calling him "Pissing Patel."  His full name, Piscine Molitor Patel, is inspired by a family friend's favorite swimming pool, the Piscine Molitor, and possibly hints at what's to come concerning Pi's relationship with water.


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Hollis Sanders eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The significance of Pi's name is that he chose it for himself. Pi felt a desire to change his name due to the teasing and torment brought on by the phonetic sound of his birth name, Piscine Molitor Patel. The name was intended by his parents to pay homage to Francis Adirubasami, a family friend who was a tremendous swimmer. Adirubasami's favorite place to swim was the Piscine Molitor hotel, which became Pi's namesake. However, many made jokes about this name, calling him "Pissing Patel" as a derogatory nickname.

Pi refers to himself as "Pi" for the majority of the novel. However, the literal translation of his given name does hint at his contentious and significant relationship with water that is yet to come.

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linda-allen eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Pi's full name is Piscine Molitor Patel. He was named after a family friend, who loved to swim and whose favorite swimming pool was the Piscine Molitor in Paris. Instead of giving their son their friend's name, Pi's parents named him after the pool! Because he is constantly teased about his name ("Pissing Patel"), he decides to shorten it simply to Pi.

I'm not great at math, but I do know that pi is a mathematical figure that represents the number 3.14. According to Math Forum (linked below), it is an irrational number because it cannot be expressed as a fraction. It is also a constant: "Pi is always the same number, no matter which circle you use to compute it." It is also an ancient number, known to the Egyptians and the Babylonians.

In changing his name, Pi goes from being a joke to being a significant "number"--maybe a little irrational, but constant as well. 

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adasison | Student

Piscine Molitor Patel or Pi certainly has an unusual name. 

Piscine Molitor is significant because it shows the boy's correlation to water. The Piscine Molitor was a grand pool in Paris, beloved by Mr. Adirubasamy a family friend. 

Pi is significant because this is the name the boy makes for himself. Pi, an irrational number used in math to find the circumference of a circle.

dandelionmontez | Student

Pi's full name is Piscine Molitor Patel. He was named after a family friend, who loved to swim and whose favorite swimming pool was the Piscine Molitor in Paris. Instead of giving their son their friend's name, Pi's parents named him after the pool! Because he is constantly teased about his name ("Pissing Patel"), he decides to shorten it simply to Pi.

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mfborn1 | Student

Pi "likes ending things", the number pi being a constant number is an allusion to a lack of a farewell/conclusion with Richard Parker. 

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nnylyak | Student

22/7 is an approximation of Pi. Which goes on and on and on forever, meaning it is an irrational number. Come on! Think about it. If you have a number that goes on and on forever there is no way to get an exact fraction for it.

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angus-trout | Student

Pi or π is one of the most important mathematical constants, approximately equal to 3.14159. It represents the ratio of any circle's circumference to its diameter in Euclidean geometry, which is the same as the ratio of a circle's area to the square of its radius. Many formulas from mathematics, science, and engineering involve π.

AND IT CANNOT BE REPRESENTED AS A FRACTION

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zytec | Student

Pi can be expressed as a fraction 22/7

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