In many other languages the name referring to a firearm cartridge derives distantly from the Latin carta, cartae

  • meaning paper, because of how 16th century firearm charges were wrapped.

In German the same concept comes probably from the Latin patronus, patroni

  • meaning defender, protector; itself derived from the Latin from pater, patris.

Why does the German word for cartridge come from patronus?

  • 3
    Because I am no export in ammunition I can not answer the question: But there is the German word Kartusche de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kartusche_(Munition) Commented May 15, 2019 at 14:05
  • @IngoBochmann thanks for pointing it out!
    – Easymode44
    Commented May 16, 2019 at 10:21
  • @ShegitBrahm is there an official formatting policy on GeSE? Is it not a bit ugly to format Latin words as it has been done in the edit? And why was patronus at the end not formatted like the other ones? I'm asking just to know how to format in future questions.
    – Easymode44
    Commented May 16, 2019 at 10:23
  • @Easymode44: the only "official formatting policy" I would claim is: make the text clearly and easily readable. So yes, you are free to change my formatting. My aim was to highlight the non-english words and I oversaw the last word. Commented May 16, 2019 at 11:33
  • @ShegitBrahm Fair point, thanks for the clarification
    – Easymode44
    Commented May 16, 2019 at 12:42

1 Answer 1


A cartridge (in German "Patrone" from French Patron for form, pattern, model) combines the components necessary to fire a bullet (projectile or grenade) from a firearm into one unit. The unit cartridge (in German "Einheitspatrone") usually consists of a case, primer, propellant charge and projectile. Historical cartridges do not make this unit.

Google Books Ngram Viewer

Further information:

Patrone is a form of the masculine Patron (form, pattern, model) existing since the 17th century. It was taken from the French patron, which in turn was borrowed from the Latin patronus. In addition to the Latin and Middle Latin meanings of 'patron saint' and 'patron saint', the French word already had the meanings 'model' and 'pattern' at the time of Old French, which were later also found in Middle Latin.

They developed out of a metaphorical use of the word patron, because the pattern form is the father form, on which the emergence of something else is modelled and the father is the model of the son. Patron found its way into the German dialects and various technical languages, so that at the end of the 16th century the word, in the meaning 'Musterform', also referred to the quantity of gunpowder required for a charge in a case first made from paper, then from metal, before it subsequently stood for the entire charge prepared in this way.

The term was then also applied to modern projectiles, which had a case, a propellant charge and an igniter. The external resemblance to these is ultimately what caused the designation of containers for 35mm films and ink for fountain pens as Patrone, which emerged in the 20th century.

German source: Wiktionary - Patrone

Patrone ist eine seit dem 17. Jahrhundert existierende Form des Maskulinums Patron (Form, Muster, Modell). Dieses wurde vom französischen patron übernommen, welches seinerseits aus dem lateinischen patronus entlehnt wurde. Das französische Wort wies außer den aus dem Lateinischen und Mittellateinischen stammenden Bedeutungen ‚Schutzherr‘ und ‚Schutzheiliger‘ schon zur Zeit des Altfranzösischen die Bedeutungen ‚Modell‘ und ‚Muster‘ auf, die sich später auch im Mittellateinischen fanden.

Sie entwickelten sich aus einem bildlichen Gebrauch des Wortes Schutzherr heraus, weil die Musterform die Vaterform ist, an der sich die Entstehung von etwas anderem orientiert und der Vater das Vorbild des Sohnes ist. Patron fand im Deutschen Eingang in die Mundarten und diverse Fachsprachen, so dass das Wort in der Bedeutung ‚Musterform‘ am Ende des 16. Jahrhunderts auch die für eine Ladung benötigte Menge Schießpulvers in einer zuerst papiernen, später metallenen Hülse bezeichnete, bevor es in der Folge für die ganze so vorbereitete Ladung stand.

Sodann wurde der Begriff ebenfalls auf die modernen Geschosse, die über Hülse, Treibladung und Zünder verfügen, übertragen. Der äußeren Ähnlichkeit mit diesen ist schlussendlich die Bezeichnung von Behältnissen für Kleinbildfilme und Tinte für Füller als Patrone geschuldet, die im 20. Jahrhundert aufkam.

  • There is a quote markup for quotes, please use it in the future
    – adjan
    Commented May 14, 2019 at 17:39
  • 1
    Since the question was asked in English you should provide a translation of the quote. Commented May 14, 2019 at 18:04
  • @infinitezero - added translation draft. Commented May 15, 2019 at 7:09
  • Thank you @help-info.de for your thorough answer. Very interesting.
    – Easymode44
    Commented May 16, 2019 at 10:20

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