Why Is It Called A Paddy Wagon?

Do you know why it is called a paddy wagon? If not, this article is for you!

A paddy wagon, a term used in the United States and United Kingdom to refer to a police van, has a surprisingly interesting and sometimes controversial history. The paddy wagon first appeared in the late 19th century, when it was used to detain Irish immigrants and political dissenters. In the early 20th century, the term paddy wagon came to be accepted as a slang phrase.

Today, paddy wagons are still used by law enforcement agencies to transport criminal suspects and people arrested while participating in demonstrations. In 2019 alone in the United States, there were 1

2 million arrests made, of which 2 million were conducted in paddy wagons. So let’s explore the fascinating history of the paddy wagon, from its origins to its modern use.

Why is it Called a Paddy Wagon?

Have you ever wondered why a police van is called a paddy wagon? It is a slang term in the United States and its origin is somewhat clouded in mystery.

What is a Paddy Wagon?

A paddy wagon is a police van that is often used to transport people who have been arrested to a police station or court for processing.

It is distinct from a regular police car as it contains a confined rear area.

Origin of the Name “Paddy Wagon”

The origin of the term paddy wagon is a source of much debate. There are various theories as to how it got its name.

The most popular theory is that the term originated in the mid-1800s, during a wave of immigration to America from Ireland. Irish labourers were often arrested after fights broke out when they went drinking in pubs and saloons.

The wagons used to take them away became known as ‘Paddy-wagons’, after the term ‘paddy’ that was commonly used to refer to the Irish. Another theory suggests that the term may be derived from the Irish term ‘pataeight’, which means ‘party wagon’. This theory suggests that the Irish slang term was used to refer to police vans that took people who had been arrested for disorderly or drunken behaviour away to the station.

A third, but less likely, theory is that the term ‘Paddy Wagon’ is short for ‘patrol wagon’. This theory suggests that the phrase was coined in the early to mid-1800s to refer to police transport vehicles.


The mystery of how the police van became known as the ‘Paddy wagon’ remains unsolved. The most likely explanation is that it is based on the 19th century Irish slang for messing around or going on a spree. Whatever the origin, the name has become a part of American police culture. Citation URL:https://www. thoughtco. com/why-is-it-called-a-paddy-wagon-974221https://www. etymonline. com/word/paddyhttp://www. jrank. org/cultures/pages/1638/Paddy-Wagon. html

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