The name, as mentioned above, was invented by Sir Philip Sidney for his Greek inspired work Arcadia. It is believed that he created the name out of the Greek elements, pan (all) and meli (honey). It was also originally intended to be pronounced (puh-MEE-lah)!
A century later, another British author, Samuel Richardson, used the name for his heroine in his epistology Pamela also known as Virtue Rewarded (1740). The novel recounts the forbidden love between a British nobleman and his servant, Pamela.
It was used as the nickname for Lady Edward FitzGerald (1773-1831), the wife of Lord Edward, and a bold supporter of Irish independence. Her real name was Stephanie Caroline Anne, and it is unknown as to why she was referred to as Pamela for most of her life, but it is the first time Pamela makes an appearance as a given name in the real world.
Pamela did not break out in popularity until the 1920s, even then, she ranks at a very low 848. By 1953, she made it in the top ten, coming in as the tenth most popular female name in the United States. Currently, Pamela only ranks in as the 983rd most popular female name (2010).
In recent years, due to several famous bearers, the name has recently made an appearance in other countries. She has been used in Germany, Poland, France, Hungary, Italy, Finland, Sweden and in Spanish-speaking countries. There is even a French equivalent, Pamèle. Though the name is inspired by Greek, it has yet to make an introduction into Greece.
Its common diminutive is of course Pam and the most famous bearer is Pamela Anderson.