The old 19th-century adage “the land of saints and scholars” completely applies to Ireland as it is a country with a rich history full of holy, prophetic, and charitable people. The majority of Irish saints canonized lived between the 4th and 10th centuries during the early Christian period of Ireland when Celtic Christianity produced a number of missionaries that traveled to Great Britain and Western Europe.
Although there were some Christians in Ireland before him, Patrick, a native of Britain, played a significant role in its full Christianisation. St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in his honor are celebrated all around the world for this very reason. We are always interested in baby name inspiration and decided to look to the saints of Ireland to discover which names are associated with saintly characters and might provide the best inspiration. We were pleased to find a number of saints with excellent Irish names to share with you! Here are 25 baby names for boys inspired by Irish saints to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and your Irish heritage!
25. Alibe / Alby
Because most of these names come from Medieval Ireland, we decided it was wise to present you with an Americanized form of the name when possible. For instance, Alibe which is pronounced All-bay is close to Alby. Saint Alibi was the first bishop of Emly in Munster, Alibe was believed to be a disciple of St. Patrick and even ordained by him. Legend has it Alibe was abandoned in the woods by his impoverished parents, where a wolf suckled him. Alibe comes from old Irish and means “white.”
This 5th-century monk was once a fighter. After many battles and conquests, in a bid to make him change, his sister, St. Fanchea, offered him the hand of a young woman in her convent. Unbeknownst to Enda, the woman was deteriorating. She died before the wedding and Fanchea used this as a sign to show Enda he had to end his brutal ways. He did. He would go on to found a monastery on the Island of Aran Mor. This name is more straightforward than most and it sounds like En-dah. This Irish baby name means “like a bird.”
23. Aeden / Aidan
Born in Ireland, St. Aidan became a monk and then Bishop of Lindisfarne, a small island off the northeast coast of England. He was beloved for his eloquent preaching and charity to the poor. He performed many miracles including one instance in which he changed the direction of the winds to prevent a pagan attack on his monastery. There are a few ways to spell this Irish baby name Aidan, Aiden, Aodhan, and Aeden are a few. It means “little fiery one.”
22. Breandawn / Brendan
According to Irish legend, Saint Brendan the Voyager was the first European to touch American soil, and his name has been settled here for decades, peaking in the late 1990s. It first arrived on the US popularity charts in 1941, especially popular, not surprisingly, for Irish-American boys. St. Brendan traveled the seas in a very small boat. This beloved Irish baby name means “prince.”
21. Coinneach / Kenneth
In Gaelic, Coinneach means “attractive person” but it is also the name of a 6th-century saint who was one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland. Having helped spread Christianity throughout Scotland and Ireland, he ended up in one of the last areas of Ireland to be converted. The name of that county where the saint conquered was called Kilkenny, or Cill Chainnigh, or the Church of Coinneach, in his honor. The name is pronounced Ko-in-ok. That’s a mouthful for a baby’s name! Kenneth is the Anglicized form of this Scotch-Irish name and it also means “handsome.”
Saint Cahal, or Cataldo, the supposed abbot of a monastery in Shanrahan, is famous in Italy where he served in Taranto in the 7th century than he is in his native Ireland. Legend has it that Cahal was shipwrecked off the Italian coast in 666, having made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He stayed in Italy for the remainder of his life, and when his body was discovered in 1071 it was deemed “incorrupted.” There is no great Americanized form of this Irish baby name that is pronounced Ka-hal. It means “battle ruler.” Cahal is not too fussy and it could be a real possibility as-is.
19. Ciaran / Kieran
This hugely popular saint’s name means “dark,” so perfect for all raven-haired babies. Like many other saints of his time, St. Ciaran founded monasteries, but in particular one in the middle of Ireland, Clonmacnoise, on the advice of fellow clergyman St. Enda. He was a simple and devout man who died of the plague at the age of 33, around 545. Ciaran is pronounced KEER-an, and thus it might be best to go with the Anglicised Kieran. The name belongs to many Irish saints including its first-born one, Ciarán of Saigir.
18. Cillian / Killian
Born in County Cavan in about 640, Saint Kilian, also spelled Killian, and Cillian was an Irish missionary bishop and the apostle of Franconia, where he began his work towards the end of the 7th century. He converted many a pagan before he was finally beheaded. His legacy lives on in the Würzburg region, which celebrates the saint for two weeks in July. No matter how you spell this name, it’s pronounced the same Kil-eh-ahn. Fittingly, it means “church.”
17. Colm / Colman
Stemming from another popular Irish name, Colm, Colman means “little dove,” making it perfect for your little boy.
Toward the end of her pregnancy in 559, St. Colman of Kilmacduagh‘s mother, Queen Rhinagh, was cast into the river with a heavy stone to weigh her down in order to kill the child, who was prophesied to be even greater than his father, the king. According to legend, God stepped in. The stone actually floated and brought the mother to safety. Colman was baptized in a well by two passing pilgrims who were healed of their own afflictions during the baptism. The well is still visited today as a place of pilgrimage. St. Colman went on to found a monastery in Kilmacduagh, Galway.
16. Columba / Colm
We got another one! Columba is the Latin form of the name Colm, both mean “dove.” We like both options here and they are indeed related to Colman. Born in 521, St. Columba is one of three chief Irish saints. Reported as founding 27 churches and 40 monasteries, Columba helped Christianize Ireland, Scotland and northern England. This pilgrim of Christ founded an abbey on the island of Iona that proved hugely influential in Britain and Ireland. He’s the patron saint of Derry where he founded a monastery before the age of 20.
15. Deaglan / Declan
Meaning “full of goodness,” or “man of prayer,” Deaglan is the more traditional way to achieve this name, but we recognize Declan in the US as a rising Irish name for baby boys. St. Declan was baptized by St. Colman, who had seen a potential quality in the young boy’s ability to preach Christianity. He started spreading the faith before St. Patrick’s arrival and was ultimately confirmed as the Bishop of Ardmore in 448. Described as a “magnet” in the Waterford region, St. Declan was much loved, with many miracles being attributed to him.
14. Fionnbarra / Finbarr
The Irishman from Cork born in 550, on becoming a monk, went to have his hair tonsured. He was said to be relinquishing his beautiful hair (“finn barr”) for God, thus his name Finnbarr, or Barra. St. Finbarr went on to found many schools and churches and even got involved in building them. He is the patron saint of Cork. This name is a lot for a baby to shoulder today so you might be interested in honoring this saint with the name Finn which means “fair” or “white.”
13. Fintan / Finton
Previously a hermit, St. Fintan became abbot of a monastery in Clonenagh. He believed in severe austerity, and it was only after fellow monks complained about their restricted diet of bread and water, saying it wasn’t enough for them to be able to work, that Fintan relented and improved their diet but not his own. This name can be spelled Fintan or Finton and both are pretty straightforward. This Irish baby name means “white fire” or “white bull.”
12. Malachi / Malachy
Saint Malachy, meaning “my angel” or “messenger from God,” was born in 1025. Becoming ordained after the death of his parents, he went on to become the Archbishop of Armagh. Not only did he bring the Roman liturgy to Ireland, he was also a great prophet. The Malachi spelling is more popular in the US where it is a top 200 baby name for boys.
11. Ultan / Ultin
Perfect if your family can trace their roots to Ulster, as the name literally means “Ulsterman.” It is pronounced Uhl-tin. St. Ultan, who died circa 657, was elected Bishop of Ardbraccan by his kinsman, St. Declan. He rescued discarded babies and brought them back to his monastery to feed them, with the children prospering in his care. He also devoted his time to writing hymns, illustrating manuscripts, and collecting the works of his niece St. Brigid. Aptly he is the patron saint of children, sick children, and pediatricians.
10. Cellach / Kelly
St. Cellach was Archbishop of Armagh and an important contributor to the reform of the Irish church in the twelfth century. The head of the Irish church had been a layman up to that point. Cellach comes from Gaelic ceallach which means “war” or “church.” The name is related to those concepts and the meaning “bright-headed.” This name shares its origins with the unisex name Kelly, which is very popular in the US.
Saint Budoc of Dol was a Bishop of Dol, venerated after his death as a saint in both Brittany and Devon. However, he had become a monk in Ireland in his most formative years. Saint Budoc is the patron of Plourin Ploudalmezeau in Finistère where his relics are preserved. The name’s Celtic origins mean “victory.” But, it is also a Breton name that means “saved from the waters.” This name is pronounced how it sounds, “BOO-dahck.”
8. Mél / Mel
Though most Mels are playing pinochle with Murray and Morris, there was a notable Saint Mel. He is one of the earliest Irish saints, a nephew of St. Patrick. He became a priest, then built a great monastery where he served as an abbot. He is known today s Mél of Ardagh. The Mel means “council protector.”
Ronan of Locronan was an Irish pilgrim saint and hermit in western Brittany. He was a son of Saint Berach and the eponymous founder of Locronan and co-patron of Quimper (France), together with its founder, Saint Corentin. Ronan is the compelling legendary Irish baby name of twelve Irish and Scottish saints that is now drawing some deserved attention! Ronan means “little seal.”
6. Senán / Seanen
Senán mac Geircinn is a prominent Munster saint in Irish tradition, founder of Inis Cathaig (Scattery Island, Iniscathy), and patron of the Corco Baiscinn and the Uí Fhidgeinte. He is listed among the Twelve Apostles of Ireland. Legend has it that a giant sea creature, called “Cathach,” roamed and stalked Scattery Island. On his arrival on the island, an archangel led Senan to the highest hill from which he was able to locate the Cathach. Facing the ferocious animal, the saint made the sign of the cross and commanded him to depart.
Senán is an Irish name and related to Sean, Sionan, Seanen, and Shannon all of which mean “old and wise.”
5. Máel / Mael
Saint Máel Ruain was the founder and abbot-bishop of the monastery of Tallaght (Co. Dublin, Ireland). He is often considered to be a leading figure of the monastic ‘movement’ that has become known to scholarship as the Céli Dé. He is not to be confused with the later namesake Máel Ruain, bishop of Lusca.
The name is pronounced MY-el and the accent seems to throw most Americans, so yo can leave it off. This Irish name means “monk of St. Rudin.” It’s related to French and Breton name that “chief or Prince.”
4. Gibrian / Brian
Saint Gibrian was an early Irish saint associated with Reims and the Marne region. He was one of a group of siblings who were received by St Remigius at Reims, the seat of his diocese, and given permission to settle in the Marne region. Gibrian comes from an Old Celtic word connoting nobility. Thus this name can mean “honorable” and “noble.” It comes from the same root as Brian so feel free to go with the more manageable option!
Gerald of Mayo is a saint of the Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Church. Born in Northumbria, the son of an Anglo-Saxon king, he was one of the English monks at Lindisfarne who accompanied Colmán of Lindisfarne to Iona and then to Ireland. St. Gerald became the first abbot of the monastery of Mayo. Gerald has always been popular in Ireland, accounting for the prevalence of Fitzgeralds there. This name means “ruler with a spear.”
2. Éogan / Owen
Éogan of Ardstraw was the founder of a monastery there. His Vita contains a number of miracle stories. While going through the forest Craoibheach (modern day Cruagh) he sang fifty psalms and when his attendant answered “Amen” at the end of the Lord’s Prayer the trees all around also answered “Amen.”
Éogan is pronounced in the exact same way as Owen, its Anglicized form. Éogan’s Irish meaning is “born under the protection of the sacred yew tree.” It is also associated with the Greek word eugenes which gives us Eugene and means “well born.” Owen is the popular form today in the US and it is much easier to spell!
We couldn’t celebrate St. Patrick’s Day without talking about the name Patrick. Patrick is the Anglicized form of the Irish name Padraig pronounced, “paw-drig.” Or rather, the Irish adopted Patrick and turned it into Padraig.
Saint Patrick is the “Apostle of Ireland” and its patron saint. Thus, the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day is a celebration of Ireland itself. He is credited (although he certainly did not do it alone) with the Christianization of Pagan Ireland and considered one of the most impactful Christian missionaries of all time. The name means “nobly born” from the Latin name Patricius.
There you go! I hope you enjoyed this list of baby names for boys and found some worth considering. These storied Irish names and the saints who inspired them are an excellent way to celebrate your Irish heritage.
Andrew is a Chicago-based writer who enjoys finding the best of the internet, obsessively making lists, and cooking for friends. After studying Film and Art History, he developed a deep love for both topics. Celebrity news, pop culture, and stories that bring people together are his passions.
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