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.

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.

**Further Reading**

**What is the significance of Pi's unusual name in Life of Pi? **

When Pi begins being teased about his full name, Piscine, and mockingly nicknamed "Pissing Patel," he decides to take matters into his own hands. When he begins as a student at a new school, he claims a new identity for himself:

I got up from my desk and hurried to the blackboard. Before the teacher could say a word, I picked up a piece of chalk and said as I wrote: My name is Piscine Molitor Patel, known to all as—I double underlined the first two letters of my given name—Pi Patel. For good measure I added Pi =3.14 and I drew a large circle, which I then sliced in two with a diameter, to evoke that basic lesson of geometry.

With his new name established, Pi thinks, "I was saved. I could breathe. A new beginning . . . [S]o, in that Greek letter that looks like a shack with a corrugated tin roof, in that elusive, irrational number with which scientists try to understand the universe, I found refuge."

The number "pi" represents the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. This irrational number's decimal representation is never-ending; that is, no person can grasp the entire number. Similarly, Pi's story is equally difficult to grasp, as Mr. Tomohiro Okamoto and Mr. Atsuro Chiba of the Maritime Department in the Japanese Ministry of Transport elucidate when they tell Pi that they find his story "extremely hard to believe." Just as the number is elusive, so too is Pi's story, for it is left up to the reader to determine which version is "truth."

Additionally, Pi is a relentlessly curious person. His pursuit of knowledge, be it religious or biological, is endless, similar to the decimal representation of pi. He also finds the ocean to be endless as he floats adrift during his days stranded at sea, conjuring the seeming endlessness of pi.

**What is the significance of Pi's unusual name in Life of Pi? **

Pi's full name is Piscine Molitor Patel. Pi's parents named him after a family friend of theirs who loved to swim. Well, that's not exactly true. The family friend loved to swim and his favorite swimming pool was the Piscine Molitor in Paris. Instead of naming Pi after the family friend, Pi's parents named him after the pool. As Pi grew up, he was teased about his name because the pronunciation isn't far off of "pissing" and nobody wants the name Pissing Patel. Pi simply shortened his name. Perhaps being named after a friend that loved swimming and pools is a bit of foreshadowing to Pi's survival for weeks and weeks on the water. Perhaps Pi's act of shortening his name is meant to remind people of the mathematical number. Pi is an irrational number, and Pi admits at the end of the book that his story might sound irrational, but that doesn't change the fact that it's a good story.

"So tell me, since it makes no factual difference to you and you can't prove the question either way, which story do you prefer? Which is the better story, the story with animals or the story without animals?"

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