From the Wikipedia:
"A design pattern in architecture and computer science is a formal way of documenting a solution to a design problem in a particular field of expertise. The idea was introduced by the architect Christopher Alexander in the field of architecture and has been adapted for various other disciplines, including computer science. An organized collection of design patterns that relate to a particular field is called a pattern language.
- The elements of this language are entities called patterns. Each pattern describes a problem that occurs over and over again in our environment, and then describes the core of the solution to that problem, in such a way that you can use this solution a million times over, without ever doing it the same way twice. — Christopher Alexander
The usefulness of speaking of patterns is to have a common terminology for discussing the situations designers already see over and over." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Design_pattern)