Incredible Irish Baby Names





Hello everyone! As St. Patrick's Day draws near, many people's attention turns to the land of (at least some of) my ancestors. The Irish are known for many things but in America, one thing in particular that we love about the Irish is their names. Americans have used versions of Irish names for quite some time, which makes sense because many Americans are of Irish descent and the names spread far and wide from there. In America and other places outside of Ireland, we tend to choose more anglicized versions of Irish names because they're easier for us to spell and pronounce. I've chosen to feature several of these names in their anglicized versions rather than their original forms for the sake of making them more practical for use in North America. Not everyone will agree with me here (and that's okay) but I think that if you live outside of Ireland or the U.K., the anglicized versions are probably the way to go in most cases. I say that because I grew up with a very Irish maiden name that no one could ever spell or pronounce. It didn't take long for me to even stop correcting people and just answer to anything. It was bad enough living in the English-speaking U.S., but when I moved to Spanish-speaking Mexico, I wanted to pretend like I didn't have a last name because it was so confusing! That's just my personal opinion and experience. Some names I did leave in their original forms because they're familiar enough to us that there shouldn't be too many issues (Sean and Seamus, for example) or because a more phonetic version just doesn't seem as nice. Siobahn and Chevonne don't have the same feel in my opinion. Again, that's personal opinion and I'll leave it to you to decide which version of these names you prefer.

I'd also like to mention at the start that my primary source for this article was www.babynamesofireland.com. It's a great site to help with the history and pronunciation of Irish names. I'll try to link to each individual name if it's featured on the site.They even have a very cool audio feature so I hope you go check it out if any of these names interests you! 

Irish names have captivated us for generations. Some of them have almost a magical feel and they are very on trend. I hope you love these names as much as I do!



I wanted to start off with some names for Ireland itself. I don't know if these would be used as given names in Ireland, but at least the first two have done alright here in America.


Ireland
possibly "land of abundance"
Ranked #983 for girls in 2014

If you're looking to honor your Irish heritage or love for Ireland in a very upfront way, Ireland is the most obvious choice. I think Ireland makes a distinctive and very pretty choice. I don't know of any reason why this name couldn't be used for boys as well but it seems to be mostly used for girls here in America.


Erin
"from the island to the west"
Ranked #325 in 2014

Erin is a poetic name for Ireland used in songs and poems. It came on to the U.S. top 1000 list in 1947 and was most popular in 1983 at #18, around the same time that homophone boys name Aaron was very popular as well.


"noble, brave"
Not ranked in the top 1000

Ealga, as a part of the phrase Innis Ealga, meaning "the noble island", is another poetic way to refer to Ireland. The pronunciation for Ealga is given as "ale-ga". This would be a bold choice but a really cool middle name.

"little rose"
Not ranked in the top 1000 in 2014

Roisin is the cutest name, meaning little rose. In the past Roisin has been a poetic name for Ireland when patriotic expression was banned, in order to covertly sing songs about Ireland. Babynamesofireland.com talks more about that. Roisin might cause some pronunciation issues in North America. The more anglicized version Rosaleen would not cause the same issue but it doesn't have the same sound. Roisin comes with the familiar and cute nickname Rosie, though so I think that makes it usable in North America.







Next up we have some unisex names. Again, I don't know that these names would be considered unisex in Ireland, but they are here in the U.S. Many of them are Irish surnames and even though many of them have caught on as first names in the U.S., they may or may not be used as first names in Ireland.


"curly haired"
Not ranked in the top 1000 for boys, ranked #248 for girls in 2014

Cassidy is an Irish surname used as a first name. It's fairly popular for girls and as a result, it's popularity for boys was very short-lived. I still think it could be usable for boys, though. Cass seems to be a popular nickname these days and Cassidy is a great way to get to it. Although Cassidy's origins are Irish, I think Cassidy is most associated with the American west because of outlaw Butch Cassidy (not his real name, by the way). 



Clancy
"red-haired warrior"
Not ranked in the top 1000

Clancy is another Irish surname that could be used as a first name. It hasn't taken off for either boys are girls but it fits in well with surnames as first names trend and its Irish roots give it an extra boost of coolness. I love the meaning, especially for a red-headed baby!


"dark" or "dark-haired"
Not ranked in the top 1000 in 2014

This name is most associated with the dashing hero of a Jane Austen novel but I can see American parents favoring it for girls. It's not currently being widely used for either gender.



Delaney
"dark challenger"
Not ranked in the top 1000 for boys, #267 for girls in 2014

Delaney is an attractive Irish surname-turned-first name that's been completely taken over for girls. If it's popularity for girls doesn't bother you though, it could still make a cool name for a boy. The nickname Laney makes this name even more appealing.



Finley
"fair warrior"
Ranked #374 for boys and #223 for girls in 2014

Finley is a name that I hear discussed and used pretty regularly. It's very trendy at the moment and the girls seem to being taking it for their own. I met a cute little girl named Finley which warmed me up to the idea of using it for a girl, but I think I still personally prefer Finley for a boy.


Kennedy
"armored head"
Ranked #54 for girls in 2014

Kennedy has risen the ranks as girls name and is no longer in the top 1000 for boys. In fact, Kennedy was never really that popular for boys. Reaching #516 in 1964 was as popular as it got. I happen to know a male Kennedy and I think it still works very well on a boy despite it's mega-popularity for girls. Of course, in America the most prominent association with the name Kennedy is President John F. Kennedy.

Madden
"little dog"
Ranked #629 for boys in 2014

Madden is an up and coming name for boys that just entered the top 1000 in 2007. It is very much football associated and one of those names that dads might tend to favor. The reason I have it on the unisex list is because I follow a baby girl on Instagram named Madden and she made me like it for girls. It makes sense as a girls name to me because of it's similarity to the very popular Madison and Madeline. It also gives you the popular nickname Maddie. Madden is cute for a boy or a girl!


"intelligent"
Ranked #363 for boys and #126 for girls

Quinn is one of very few Q names that are easily usable. Even though there is a big difference in popularity between the genders (favoring the girls), Quinn is still the most popular Q name for both boys and girls. It's darling for either gender, but I personally prefer Quinn on a girl.



"little king"
Ranked #999 for boys and #107 for girls in 2014

Reagan is barely clinging to the top 1000 for boys and poised to enter the top 100 for girls. Like many of these names, Reagan makes just as good a boys name as it does a girls name but because of it's popularity for girls, it's fallen out of favor for boys. The most common association with the name Reagan in America is President Ronald Reagan. 


"courageous"
Ranked #173 for boys and #47 for girls in 2014

Riley is popular for both genders but still favors the girls. It's on a bit of a downturn in popularity for both boys and girls as well, though I can see it rising for girls again soon thanks to Riley on Girl Meets World. Riley has an abundance of alternate spellings in the U.S., especially for girls. This is one name that I prefer the original Irish spelling on and I prefer Reilly for a boy.

"red king" or "great king"
Ranked #416 for boys and #840 for girls in 2014

Rory is one Irish unisex name that still has a solid hold for the boys, though it appears the spelling Rori is used for girls in Ireland. Rory is an important name in Irish history. The last king of Ireland was named Rory O'Connor. In America, Rory and Rori are sometimes used as nicknames for names such as Lorelei or Aurora.

Shannon
"old and wise"
Not in the top 1000 for 2014

The River Shannon is the longest river in Ireland. Shannon had a good run in the United States, as far as popularity goes. It reached the top 20 for girls and the top 100 for boys. It's fallen out of the top 1000 for both genders though, 2006 for the boys and 2013 for the girls. Now that it's no longer popular for girls, could it be time to bring this one back for the boys? Some celebrities have taken this stance. Megan Fox and Brian Austin Green named their son Noah Shannon in 2012. This is my father-in-law's name so I can definitely see it on a boy.






Now for some Irish girls names:

"darling child"
Ranked #198 in 2014

Alana is the most popular spelling of this name but there are three spellings in the top 1000: Alana, Alanna, and Alannah. It's on a bit of a downturn but I still think it captures a lot of what modern American parents are looking for in a name these days: popular sound, nickname friendly, and a cute meaning. Alana is a feminine form of Alan. It makes a great honor name for a dad named Alan because its ties are obvious but its sound is very different so there's no confusion.

"noble, virtuous"
Ranked #419 spelled Briana, #85 spelled Brianna

While Briana is the simplest spelling of this lovely name, it's much more popular spelled Brianna. The two accepted pronunciations of this name in the United States are "bree-ANN-uh" and "bree-AWN-uh". The Irish pronunciation sounds somewhere in between the two to my ears. Brianna was most popular in 1999 at #14. Briana/Brianna is the feminine form of Brian (while has a totally different pronunciation in the Ireland than the one we're used to in the States). It makes a great honor name for Brian for all the same reasons why Alana is a great honor name for Alan.


"fair"
Not ranked in the top 1000

Fianna is a very cool and rare name with a fasinating history. The Fianna was the name of Fionn Mac Cool's band of warriors, which likely included women as well as men. A current politcal party in the Republic of Ireland is called the Fianna Fáil. Babynamesofireland.com lists the pronunciation as "fee-ina". 


"beautiful"
Not ranked in the top 1000

Caoimhe is very popular in Ireland but neither the original nor the anglicized Keeva have made the U.S. top 1000. I love the sound and meaning of Keeva so much! It's truly lovely. This is one name where I think the anglicized spelling has a much, much better chance of catching on the U.S. I don't Americans would have any idea how to spell and pronounce Caoimhe.


"dark hair and brown eyes"
 #228 spelled Keira, #673 spelled Ciara

Keira is a lovely Irish name that's definitely made its place in the American naming culture with many various spellings. Keira is the most common spelling in the U.S., most likely thanks to Keira Knightly. Keira, Kiera, Kira, and Kyra are all in the top 1000 and all fairly popular. The original Ciara spelling is in the top 1000 as well but I think it would be pronounced kee-ARR-uh or see-AIR-uh by most Americans, as opposed to the original KEER-uh pronunciation. 


"a beauty that only poetry can capture"
Ranked #359 in 2014

Kyla is a cute little name that's done pretty well for itself in the United States. It was most popular in 2004 at #162. The meaning/origin of Kyla is disputed. It could be Scottish and a feminine form of Kyle or it could be a form of Keela, which comes from an Irish word meaning "a beauty that only poetry can capture". It's hard to get a better meaning! 


"the cause of great joy" or "she who intoxicates"
Ranked #482

Maeve is such a lovely name that only entered the U.S. top 1000 in 1997.  It's a pretty name with an interesting meaning and a unique sound. Maeve was a warrior queen with an interesting story in Irish history.



"freedom, liberty"
Not ranked in the top 1000

Saoirse is a very cool Irish word name with patriotic undertones.  It's very popular in Ireland but it could cause some pronunciation issues here in North America. Babynamesofireland.com lists the pronunciation as "sear-sha".  I have seen some people spell this name Seersha or Searsha here in the U.S., but I chose to feature the Saoirse spelling (despite the pronunciation issues) because it is a word name. 

"God is gracious"
Not in the top 1000

Siobhan is a lovely name with a gorgeous sound. It's not at all popular but I think this spelling is familiar enough to the American consciousness that it wouldn't need to be anglicized. There are a few anglicized spellings like Chevonne or Shavon, but I think they lose a lot in translation.



"golden princess"
Not in the top 1000

Orla is such a cute little name with a gorgeous meaning! "Golden princess" is so lovely! Orla is pretty simple to spell and pronounce, which is a plus. Orlaith is a name shared by the sister and daughter of Ireland's most famous king Brian Boru.


"lamb"
Not in the top 1000

Una is so very sweet! I love that it means lamb! Another spelling is Oona but there's no spelling of this name that's popular. Una has such a unique sound and there's not a name in the U.S. top 1000 that starts with a U, which will really make it stand out. Oonagh has an important place in Irish history and legend.





And now for some Irish boys names!


"one strength"
Not ranked in the top 1000

Angus is a quintessential Irish/Scottish name. The roots of Angus are Irish but it's well used in Scotland as well. Being from right in the middle of "cattle country", I question how usble Angus is here (being a type of beef). I think Angus would be a bold choice, but a very handsome one and Gus is a fun nickname. Angus is very important in Irish mythology


"salmon"
Ranked #358 spelled Braden, #62 spelled Brayden

Braden is the simplest spelling of this name but Brayden is the most common spelling. Braden is currently dropping in popularity after being mega-popular a few years ago. It's one of many names that rhyme with Aidan (another Irish name) that have dominated America's naming culture for over a decade now. The myth behind Bradan is very interesting.


Brogan
"little badger" or "little shoe"
Not in the top 1000

Brogan is an awesome name with a very on-trend sound. It's currently under the radar so it makes a great choice for parents looking for a cool but unique choice. Brogan makes a great alternative to the much more common names Logan and Brody.


"lover of hounds"
Ranked #52 in 2014

Connor entered in the top 1000 in 1981 and has been in the top 100 since 1992, so it's rise to fame was pretty fast. There are many spellings of Connor that are popular: Conor, Konnor, Konner, and Conner. In a list of combined spellings Connor rises to #38. The thing I like most about Connor is what it means.


Ranked #122 in 2014

I adore Declan! It's a name that I'd consider using despitte its popularity and the fact that it doesn't really match what I consider to be "my style". I love the meaning "man of prayer", though it is disputed. Many sources list Declan's meaning as "man of prayer". Babynamesofireland.com suggests "full of goodness". Either way, it's an enchanting name! St. Declan was a missionary to Ireland possibly even before St. Patrick.




"fair-headed"
Ranked #234 in 2014

Finn is a name that's rising and I believe it will continue to rise quite a bit (especially after the new Star Wars movie). It's only been in the top 1000 since 2000. There are lots of other names that Finn could be short for (Finnegan, Phineas, Finley) so that makes this name even more prevalent. Fionn Mac Cool is a very important figure in Irish folklore. 



"spear carrier"
Not in the top 1000 spelled Garret, #236 spelled Garrett

Garret is an Irish version of the name Gerard that was most popular in 2000 at #74. There is some interesting Irish history and legend surrounding this name. 


"dark hair and brown eyes"
Ranked #576 in 2014

Kieran is a really cool Irish name that's actually experiencing a slight drop in popularity. I definitely think this name deserves some more attention in the U.S.! It's been popular for a long time in Ireland and England. This name has been born by at least 26 saints. Keira/Ciara is the female version of Kieran/Ciaran.


Killian
"church"
Ranked #516 in 2014

Killian is spunky-sounding Irish name that's surprisingly popular. Some people find the first syllable to be a turn-off. St. Cillian was a fist century Irish missionary with an interesting history. Today one might associate this name with the debonair pirate character Killian (Captain Hook) from the popular show Once Upon a Time. In fact, I believe you could tie the name's sharp rise in popularity between 2013 and 2014 to the character.


Irish short form of William, "resolute protector"
Ranked #2 in 2014

Liam has certainly solidified its hold on the American naming culture. William has been a perinial favorite for parents around the world and is also in the U.S. top 10. Short form Liam that can be tied to Ireland has been #2 in the U.S. for two years. I think the #1 name Noah will likely block its way forward for the foreseeable future, though. 


Lorcan
"little fierce one"
Not in the top 1000 in 2014

Lorcan would would make a great choice for a parent looking for an Irish name that's cool but somewhat under the radar (in the U.S. at least, Lorcan is growing in popularity in the Ireland). I love its strong meaning! Lorcan is a notable name in Irish history and it has some literary merit to it too. Lorcan is a name chosen by J.K. Rowling for the son of one of her memorable characters, Luna Lovegood. 




"cloud"
Not in the top 1000 in 2014

Niall is a really fun sounding name! Though it sounds similar to Niles and Lyle, it also sounds a lot more spunky and modern. I think the meaning "cloud" is very distinctive. Niall has a very interesting story in Irish history/legend. This name was brought to the American consciousness by a member of the Irish/English boy band One Direction. Fellow band mate Liam is also on this list.


"little seal"
Ranked #366 in 2014

Ronan is a name that I found to be surprisingly popular. It's also a name that tends to be a favorite among name-lover (though not this particular name lover, if I'm being totally honest). The myth behind the name Ronan is very intriguing and not one to miss. My husband has told me before that he likes this name because he associates it with a character on  the sci-fi show Stargate Atlantis (it's spelled different, though). 



From James/Jacob, "supplanter"
Ranked #900 in 2014

Seamus is a name that I automatically associate with Ireland. It's the Irish version of James, which in turn is a version of the Hebrew name Jacob meaning "supplanter" or "trickster". This is a name that's familiar enough in its original spelling that it doesn't need to be anglicized in my opinion. You might run into some occasional pronunciation issues, though. Seamus is familiar to most Americans but not at all common. I'd consider it a refreshing choice and a great way to honor an important James or Jacob in your life. It's another name chosen by J.K. Rowling for the Harry Potter series.


Form of John, "God is gracious"
Ranked #193 in 2014

Sean was the epitome of an Irish name when I was growing up but it's popularity is waning here in the U.S. It's still hanging on, though and two other anglicized spellings (Shawn and Shaun) are also in the top 1000. Sean is so familiar, in my opinion, that it doesn't need anglicizaion but some parents do prefer it still. Sean might be starting to sound dated here in the U.S., but it's still a strong, solid Irish name and one of John's most familiar international versions. Shane is also a variant of this name that to me, doesn't feel as dated. Sean and Shane are great ways to honor an important John in your life!




Wow! That was one of the longest articles I've ever done! I hope you enjoyed it! I really encourage you to go check out babynamesofireland.com if you're interested in Irish names. I'm not very familiar with Irish history, legend, or folklore (despite my Irish heritage) but I think knowing the history and/or mythology behind a name is important and I think babynamesofireland.com does a good job of that. I also think that it's really cool that they have Irish author Frank McCort doing audio recordings for each name. That really helps with pronunciation! 

I know this was a very American perspective on Irish names but I hope my readers outside the U.K. readers found it useful. U.K. readers and readers from Ireland, I'd love to hear your thoughts and which names with Irish roots you find to be popular where you are, I tried to rely heavily on what I'd consider to be credible sources for all my information but if I did get something wrong, I apologize. If you'll let me know (gently) in the comments, I'll make needed corrections. 

Thanks you all so much for reading! God bless you!


What's your favorite Irish name?















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5 comments

  1. I like Delaney the best, maybe because it could be a combo of both Dana and Gelaney :-) Great job on the article <3

    ReplyDelete
  2. There are a lot of UK immigrants in Australia I went to school with a few kids with an Irish parent: Fallon (g), Finola, Grady, Fionn and Neve (Niamhn)

    I thought they sounded so lovely, I gave my daughter the middle name Isolde.

    From list Ronan, Rory, Orla and Saoirse.
    Others Isla, Nora, Bridget, Rowan and Aoife (I love, love)

    There are a few names on that are fairly popular in Australia like Angus and Darcy (top 100 names & have been for years) though both are on the down trend .

    ReplyDelete
  3. The traditional irish spelling of Siobhan is siobhan not siobahn

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your input. I corrected the oversight.

      Delete
  4. Keenan is an Irish name. The meaning is ancient one.

    ReplyDelete

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