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Patient is a word with two separate, but related, principal meanings.

  • The adjective patient means 'willing to wait without distress or anger', 'prepared to put up with irritation' or 'accepting the state of the world - "taking things as you find them"'. A good parent is patient with a child, accepting that it will cry or make other noises, and is not yet capable of adult conversation and interests. There are elements of endurance, tolerance, calm and equanimity in the quality of being patient - patience. (You may also want to see a note about the difference between patience and patients.)
  • The noun patient means 'a person undergoing treatment by a health professional [or amateur]'; 'a person kept in hospital until recovery'.
    • In a rarer use, a patient in the traditional terminology of grammar is in an inverse relationship to an agent. Where the Subject of a verb is its agent, the Object (of a transitive verb) is its patient.

Note the near homophones (exact homophones in rapid, careless speech) impatient and in-patient.

  • Impatient is only an adjective. It is the reverse of the adjective patient, and means 'NOT willing to wait without distress or anger', 'NOT prepared to put up with irritation' or 'NOT accepting the state of the world - "taking things as you find them"'. A child may be impatient with the rules imposed by the parent, and, for example, be unable to accept that sweets on display in the shop are not for immediate consumption.
  • In-patient is only a noun, although it may be used attributively. It means a residential patient: one who has to stay in hospital, or similar medical establishment, and who cannot be released to live at home.

You may also want to see -nce - -nts.

It is one of the oddities of the Latin language that patient is derived from the same verb as passion and the grammatical term passive: the Latin patior (1st person singular - 'I suffer'), of which the past participle is passus - 'suffered'.