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. For even more Irish baby names, keep reading! We’ve got our favorite gender-neutral options to share as well.
Shea is a traditional Irish surname that’s now given as a name for both baby boys and girls. The gender-neutral name means “admirable.” Shea and its variety of spelling including Shai and Shay have all been popular in the US.
Kieran is a boys’ name that could cross over, as an update of outmoded Karen or a variation on trendy Kiera. Less than 10% of girls were given the name in the US as it is still primarily seen as a name for boys. We think it works as a unisex name. Kieran has an excellent meaning: “little dark one.”
Regan briefly entered the top 1000 names for boys in the US in the 1960s but hasn’t rejoined the list since. We think this amazing gender-neutral baby name has a lot going for it. For starters, the name means “little king.” In literature, Regan was one of the faithless daughters in Shakespeare’s King Lear.
Devan is more commonly seen spelled as Devin, but both work for both genders! Devan has Irish origins, of course, and means “poet.” While this name is still heavily given to baby boys, we find it has a playful quality as a name for a girl.
The city name Dublin ultimately derived from Irish elements dubh, meaning “dark,” and lind, “pool.” The dark pool in question was a tidal pool behind Dublin Castle. As with many city names like Brooklyn, Paris, and London, they work very well as gender-neutral names and sound very distinguished.
Eire is another unisex name that refers to the isle of Ireland itself and literally means “from the Island to the West.” The name was derived from the Gaelic goddess Ériu who also brings us the beloved name, Erin. Eire is pronounced Ay-ra.
Cory is often spelled Corey and both were hugely popular in the US until they started to decline in the 1990s. We still love this gender-neutral Irish name. Cory was popular for girls as well and kept up with older popular companions of the day Tori and Lori. The charmer means “from the hollow.”
Keir has traditionally been reserved for baby boys, but thanks to its history as a surname, we feel it should also be a popular option for girls. Like others, Regan, Kennedy, and Kerry, this surname name brings gravitas. Keir or Kier means “black.”
Since we mentioned Kennedy, we thought it appropriate to include this handsome gender-neutral name that is currently one of the most popular in the US for girls. Kennedy means “misshapen head.” That’s not stopping parents from choosing this stately moniker for their babies. If you’d like to spice it up with an alternative spelling you can choose from Kennedi, Kenady, or Kenadee.
Niall is pronounced nye-al, which is similar to Neil but sounds much fresher. This is an ancient name borne by several of the high kings of Tara, the most famous of whom was the powerful semi-mythological fifth-century king known as Niall of the Nine Hostages, ancestor of all the O’Neills and MacNeills that followed. While this name has traditionally been given to boys, we think it works as a unisex option. The name means “cloud.”
Tyran is an alternative form of another Irish name, Tyrone. Tyran sounds a touch softer making it appropriate for both genders. Tyran means “from the land of Eoghen” or “from the land of Owen.” Tyran has never been popular in the US and we think that should change, new parents.
Quinn is the Anglicized version of the Irish patronymic surname Ó Cuinn, meaning “descendent of Conn.” Conn has two possible derivations: the Old Irish cond, meaning “intellect,” or cenn, meaning “chief.” Quinn has been a gender-neutral option for a long time and today, it is one of the fastest-growing names in that category.
In Irish mythology, Miach was a son of Dian Cecht of the Tuatha Dé Danann. This gender-neutral, traditional Irish name is wonderful if you have the patience to correct people mispronouncing it. The name is pronounced Miy-AACH. The name means “honorable.”
One of the original unisex Irish surname names, energetic Casey bounced onto the scene in the 1960s, then peaked in the 1980s for both boys and girls. There’s no denying this names casual, easy charm. Casey means “brave in battle.”
Kiley is one of the more reasonable of the Kylie variations, which also include Kilea, Kilee, Kileigh, Kili, Kilie, Kylee, Kyley, Kyli, ad infinitum. The Kiley spelling of the name was favored for decades with babies of both genders receiving the name and propelling this moniker into the top 500. Kiley has been seen as an alternative to Kyle for boys. Kiley can mean “gracious” or “a narrow spit of land.”
Kiley adjacent, Rylie (also spelled Riley) is a great name for both boys and girls that means “descendant of Roghallach.” It’s currently a top 500 name in the Rylie spelling. Rylie is also interpreted to mean “courageous.” So, you’re sealing the deal in a couple of ways with an excellent name like Rylie.
Tierney is a Celtic surname with a definite Irish twinkle, a name just waiting to be discovered. Though now sometimes used for girls (in the US, not Ireland), as in jazz singer Tierney Sutton, it still has plenty of punch. From the Irish name, Tigernach which is pronounced TEER-nee. Tierney means “descendant of a lord.”
Callen is a unisex Gaelic name growing in popularity here. This gentle name means “rock” and that’s appropriate if you’re looking to bring some strength to a moniker. From the Gaelic name Caolán, Callen is perfectly gender-neutral and balanced.
Though Darra, also spelled Dara in the US, would be considered mainly a girls’ name, the most recent count is 10 times as many girls given the name last year than boys. It’s mainly a boys’ name in Ireland, where it’s in the top 100 along with variations Daire and Darragh. The name can mean “oak” or “fertile” or “wise.”
Ryan’s use as a given name was inspired by the surname Ryan, a variation of the Irish O’Riain meaning “son of Rían.” Rían is composed of the Irish-Gaelic elements rí, meaning “king” and an, a diminutive suffix. Ryan is considered a unisex name in the US, where variant spellings Ryann and Ryanne are also valid for girls. This name means “little king.”
Rory is a light, spirited name for a redhead with Celtic roots. The name Rory is getting more popular overall, but for the past few years has been trending decidedly toward the boys’ side. However, it’s been rising to new heights for girls in recent years. Rory means “red king.”
Kellen is an Irish name that means “descendant of the bright-headed one.” The gender-neutral name has slipped in popularity in recent years, but we still see a place for it as it sounds like many other popular names like Kieran, Kian, Helen, Ellen, and Kelly.
Carey is from an Irish surname, Ó Ciardha, meaning from the family of Ciardha. The name was trendy in the US in the 1970s but it has since fallen from use. Bring back the good Carey name which means “dark, black” or “from the fort.”
Gael is a gender-neutral Gaelic name that simply means “a Gaelic person.” It’s a cross-cultural name that you will find in a number of naming traditions. This short, yet sweet, name is one of our very favorites for any baby.
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Sheridan is one surname-name that hasn’t come into style for either gender in the US, though it was lightly used for boys around the turn of the 20th century and girls 100 years later. This beautiful name means “to seek” or “searcher.”
There you go! 25 Irish gender-neutral baby names that we love. We hope you feel inspired to honor your Irish heritage. Even if you do not, these names are truly beautiful, unisex options.
- 1 25. Alibe / Alby
- 2 24. Enda
- 3 23. Aeden / Aidan
- 4 22. Breandawn / Brendan
- 5 21. Coinneach / Kenneth
- 6 20. Cahal
- 7 19. Ciaran / Kieran
- 8 18. Cillian / Killian
- 9 17. Colm / Colman
- 10 16. Columba / Colm
- 11 15. Deaglan / Declan
- 12 14. Fionnbarra / Finbarr
- 13 13. Fintan / Finton
- 14 12. Malachi / Malachy
- 15 11. Ultan / Ultin
- 16 10. Cellach / Kelly
- 17 9. Budoc
- 18 8. Mél / Mel
- 19 7. Ronan
- 20 6. Senán / Seanen
- 21 5. Máel / Mael
- 22 4. Gibrian / Brian
- 23 3. Gerald
- 24 2. Éogan / Owen
- 25 1. Patrick
- 26 25. Shea
- 27 24. Kieran
- 28 23. Regan
- 29 22. Devan
- 30 21. Dublin
- 31 20. Eire
- 32 19. Cory
- 33 18. Keir
- 34 17. Kennedy
- 35 16. Niall
- 36 15. Tyran
- 37 14. Quinn
- 38 13. Miach
- 39 12. Casey
- 40 11. Kiley
- 41 10. Rylie
- 42 9. Tierney
- 43 8. Callen
- 44 7. Darra
- 45 6. Ryan
- 46 5. Rory
- 47 4. Kellen
- 48 3. Carey
- 49 2. Gael
- 50 1. Sheridan
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