A name pattern represents an arbitrary collection of objects to which some operation is typically applied. It is one of the two types of open-ended arguments many PyMOL commands accept. The other is a selection expression.
For example, one might wish to uniformly color a mesh, a molecule, and a set of distances using a single command:
color white, meshA moleculeA distance*
In the above statement, “meshA moleculeA distance*” is a name pattern. It contains a space-separated list of names, each which may themselves contain one or more wildcard characters (asterisks).
It would not be possible to do this using an selection expression since mesh and measurements objects do not themselves contain atoms.