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 associate 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!
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.
- 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
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