Sir Philip Sidney invented the name Pamela for a pivotal character in his epic prose work, The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia, written in the late 16th century and published posthumously. It is widely thought that Sidney intended the name to mean "all sweetness" having in mind the Greek words pan ("all") and meli ("honey").
The Samuel Richardson novel Pamela in 1740 or 1741 inaugurated the use of Pamela as a given name but it was not in common usage until the 20th century.
A rare early bearer of the name is Lady Edward FitzGerald (c.1773–1831) and although she went by the name Pamela her true name was Stephanie Caroline Anne Syms.
The name's popularity may have been hindered by the tendency to pronounce it /pəˈmiːlə/pə-MEE-lə which was not fully superseded by the now-standard /ˈpæmələ/PAM-ə-lə until the start of the 20th century.