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 female saints with excellent Irish names to share with you! Here are 25 baby names for girls inspired by Irish saints to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and your Irish heritage!
25. Eithne / Enya
This phonetic Anglicization of the Irish name Eithne was made familiar by the single-named Irish singer and composer, Enya. Just a heads up, we will be providing you with Anglicized or at least more manageable forms of this names when necessary! St. Eithne was the daughter of a king and an early Irish convert to Christianity. This Irish baby name means “fire.”
24. Brigid / Bridget
Born around 450, St. Brigid is one of the three chief saints of Ireland, along with St. Patrick and St. Columba. Born out of wedlock to a pagan chieftain and an enslaved Catholic mother, Brigid was raised a Catholic and was involved in many charitable acts. There are a number of notable Irish women with this name including more saints on this list who enjoyed its many variations. Brigid or Anglicized, Bridget, are both excellent choices. This Irish baby name means “power, vigor, virtue.”
23. Bronagh / Brona
Born in the 6th century, Bronagh is well known for the bell from Cell Brónche (the church of Bronagh) in County Down. As a disciple of St. Patrick, Bronagh looked after shipwrecked sailors, and legend has it she used her bell to warn seafarers of any rising storms and to summon nuns to prayer. Brona is a little easier for most Americans to say and spell. This beautiful Irish baby name means “sorrow.”
22. Caoilfhionn / Kaylin
There’s very little known about this virgin saint from the 6th century, but a church bearing her name was apparently built in Roscommon. Meaning “slender” and “pure,” this tricky-to-spell name is both pretty and unusual. We suggest going with Keelan or even better Kaylin. This name is traditionally gender-neutral, but today it is favored for little boys in Ireland, often spelled Caelan.
21. Ciara / Kiera
The life of St. Cera, born in the 7th century, is often mixed up with another Cera born a century earlier. Yet, legend has it that when a town went up in flames, St. Brendan instructed the inhabitants to seek the prayers of Cera. Following her prayers, the town was saved. She would go on to form her own monastery, Kilcrea, in Cork. We love the name Ciara but its traditional pronunciation is closer to Kiera so we favor that option to honor this saint. This Irish baby name for girls means “little dark one.”
20. Darerca / Dareka
One of the wilier names on this list, but nonetheless one belonging to the alleged sister of St. Patrick, who had at least 17 sons, all of whom became bishops. As a saint, herself, a mother of saints, and of course, as sister to the Apostle of Ireland, your child will have a worthy Irish namesake. We prefer the spelling Dareka for American parents as it allows others to pronounce this one correctly. This name is so closely tied to the legendary saint that it means “St. Darerca.”
Fidelma “the red” was the sister to Eithne “the fair,” with both dying at the Well of Clebach. Along with her sister, she is included in the Acts of St. Patrick. He built a church in their honor as a testament to his reverence for them. Fidelma is said to be St. Patrick’s first convert to Christianity. The pronunciation of this name is pretty straightforward, just be sure to put emphasis on the last syllable, and say fid-el-MA. Fidelma means “beauty, forever good.”
18. Ite / Ita
Ite is deceptively simple in that most will say it wrong with confidence. Ite is pronounced Ee-da so we suggest the Anglicized spelling, Ita. Saint Ite, baptized Deirdre (also a great name), was born in 480 in County Waterford. As a pious young woman, she traveled to Killeedy in County Limerick and founded a small convent. With a capacity of prophecy and “spiritual discernment,” she was held in great regard by contemporary religious men and women and was a foster mother to many future saints.
Ita is a beautiful Irish baby name that means “thirst for holiness.”
17. Maire / Myra
Although this name is not attributed to an Irish saint, it is one that belongs to a beloved saint worldwide. As the original name in Ireland for the Holy Virgin, it was held in such respect that it didn’t come into use until the 15th century. This name is not pronounced like mare, it is closer to Myra. Maire shares its meaning with Mary, “drop in the sea.”
16. Athracht / Attracta
Athracht lived in the sixth century and is associated with Conainne. Local tradition remembers her great healing powers and compassion. Her convents were famous for hospitality and charity to the poor. Athracht will likely throw some people so we suggest going with the Latinized form of the name, Attracta. The meaning of this name is “St. Athracht,” it’s completely tied to her.
15. Bega / Bridget / Becca
Bega is a shortened form of a name most Americans will recognize as Bridget. Bega means “tiny” or “life.” St. Bega is associated in legend with a number of miracles, the most famous being the “Snow miracle” in which snow fell around the lands of a monastery to prevent a land dispute. She is the subject of many an earthy folktale due to people’s attraction to miracles.
14. Begnet / Begneta
Two ruined churches in Dalkey are named for St. Begnet, one on Dalkey Island, and the other near the 15th-century stone townhouse now serving as Dalkey Castle and Heritage Centre. Like many other female, virgin saints, she is described as beautiful and desirable, but she refused her numerous suitors in favor of religious devotion. Begnet is a diminutive form of Bec, which also gives us Bega. This name also means “tiny” or “life.”
13. Breage / Breaca
Breage Parish Church is the Anglican parish church of the parish of Breage, Cornwall, England. It is dedicated to Saint Breage or Breaca, said to have been an Irish nun who came to Cornwall in the 5th-century. Since the traditions about Breage that have come down are late, the veracity of the details are doubted. This is so true that folks mixed up this saint’s gender and began calling her St. Brioc (a male name). The meaning of this is unclear and we think it is associated with Bearach which means “steep” or “pointed.”
12. Buriana / Breonna
St. Buriana is said to have been the daughter of an Irish king and travelled to Cornwall from Ireland as a missionary (this is a common Cornish theme) to convert the local people to Christianity. According to the Exeter Calendar of Martyrology, Buriana was the daughter of a Munster chieftain. Buriana is another form of Brian an Irish name meaning “strong” and “virtuous.”
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11. Conainne / Dachonna
Conainne is somehow pronounced exactly the same as cognac, so you might want to go with this saint’s other name, St. Dachonna. Conainne was a female missionary who evangelized in the Soghain area of County Galway. She founded a church at Cell Conainne (“the church of Conainne”), in modern-day Kilconnell. It appears that the name of the more widely known St Connell was by error substituted for Connainne/Dachonna after the 16th century. This Irish baby name means “strong as a wolf” and shares the same roots with Connell.
10. Cere / Cyra
St. Cyra was a virgin saint and abbess of the monastery of Killchere (“Cyra’s Church”) in that part of Munster which was called Muscragia or Muskerry. This name is pronounced exactly like Kiera but without the A at the end. So, KEER. The names are related and thus it means “black” or “little dark one.”
9. Dymphna / Dimpna
St. Dymphna was born in Ireland in the 7th century. Dymphna’s father Damon was a petty king of Oriel. Dymphna devoted herself to christ and took a vow of chastity. Shortly thereafter, her religious mother passed away which caused her father to go mad. Eventually, he killed Dymphna after she fled his wrath in Belgium. St. Dymphna is known as the Lily of Éire, due to her spotless virtue. St. Dymphna’s name derives from the Irish damh meaning “poet.”
Edana of Ireland was ordained monastic by St. Patrick himself. She is the patron saint of several parishes in western Ireland. A “famous holy well,” known for its healing properties, was named for her. Some sources state that the city of Edinburgh, close to the site where she founded a convent, was named for her. Her Irish name means “little flame.”
7. Sárnait / Sourney
Sárnait, also known as Surney of Drumacoo or Sourney, was a 6th-century Irish saint. Surney was the founder of the church of Drumacoo, in the parish of Ballinderreen, County Galway. She was an associate of Colman mac Duagh, who was the bishop of the locality at the time. Sárnait is pronounced SAWR nit, which would be an interesting choice today! The name means “noble chief.”
There is a popular myth that St. Faber had a pet deer which carried the sacred books that she was entrusted with. One day, as she was travelling to meet Baron O Phelan at his castle in Boho, the deer was harassed by some hunting hounds. In order to escape, the deer jumped into the Sillees River and in the process ruined St Fabers books. The saint then placed a curse on the river that it would run backwards and sour. The meaning of this name is unclear. It could come from a Latin clan name meaning “smith” or it could be a form of an Irish name meaning “Constance.”
5. Samthann / Samhthann
Samthann, modernized spelling Samhthann (pronounced SAHW-en), was an Irish folk saint purportedly a Christian nun and abbess in Early Christian Ireland. She is one of only four female Irish saints for whom Latin Lives exist.
According to legenc, on one occasion a lascivious monk visited the saint’s monastery and attempted to seduce one of the virgins living there. When he left the monastery and crossed the river to meet the girl a giant eel rose out of the water, bit him on the genitals, and wrapped itself around his waist. The eel remained in this position until the monk returned to the monastery and begged for and received forgiveness from St Samthann.
This name is believed to be related to Samhain, a folk festival marking the end of the harvest season. Thus this name likely means “summer’s end.”
4. Femia / Femme / Eufemia
St. Femia lived towards the end of the 6th century. A sister of Saint Felim of Kilmore and Saint Daig of Inniskeen, little is known about this Irish saint. The name is traditionally pronounced FE-va but you could go with the Latinized, Euphemia. The Irish meaning of this name is “modest.”
3. Ia / Hia
Saint Ia of Cornwall (also known as Eia, Hia or Hya) was an evangelist and martyr of the 5th or 6th centuries in Cornwall. She is said to have been an Irish princess, the sister of Erc of Slane, and a student of Saint Baricus. A church of her namesake was erected on her grave in St. Ives. EE-ah is the Cornish pronunciation, but EYE-ah is also accepted. The name means “ice.”
2. Modwenna / Modwen
St. Modwenna or Modwen was an Irish noblewoman by birth and founded the abbey on an island in the River Trent. Modwenna spent seven years at the abbey with two other Irish nuns called Lazar and Althea, before the three embarked on a pilgrimage to Rome. Upon their return to England, they built a church at Stapenhill in honor of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. This name likely means “mannerly.”
1. Cinnia / Cynnia
Cinnia, or Cynnia, was an Irish saint who lived during the 5th century. She was a princess of Ulster, the only daughter of Echu (or Echadius), a king in the land of Neil in Ireland. She converted to Christianity, but her father wanted her to marry, so Saint Patrick intervened on her behalf. She became a nun and converted many pagans to Christianity. Cinnia is an Irish name that means “beauty.”
There you go! What did you think of these Saints’ names? We hope you found at least a couple worth considering. We know that these names can be a challenge for many Americans but some could totally work out here. Happy St. Patrick’s Day! If you would like to learn about even more Irish names, we’ve got some awesome gender-neutral options to share with you.
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. Eithne / Enya
- 2 24. Brigid / Bridget
- 3 23. Bronagh / Brona
- 4 22. Caoilfhionn / Kaylin
- 5 21. Ciara / Kiera
- 6 20. Darerca / Dareka
- 7 19. Fidelma
- 8 18. Ite / Ita
- 9 17. Maire / Myra
- 10 16. Athracht / Attracta
- 11 15. Bega / Bridget / Becca
- 12 14. Begnet / Begneta
- 13 13. Breage / Breaca
- 14 12. Buriana / Breonna
- 15 11. Conainne / Dachonna
- 16 10. Cere / Cyra
- 17 9. Dymphna / Dimpna
- 18 8. Edana
- 19 7. Sárnait / Sourney
- 20 6. Faber
- 21 5. Samthann / Samhthann
- 22 4. Femia / Femme / Eufemia
- 23 3. Ia / Hia
- 24 2. Modwenna / Modwen
- 25 1. Cinnia / Cynnia
- 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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