More Americans self-identify as having Irish ancestry than actual inhabitants of the island of Ireland. Over 33 million Americans or 10% of the population say that they have Irish roots. The population of the island of Ireland is 6.6 million people. So it’s no surprise that Saint Patrick’s Day is celebrated in the U.S. with such liveliness and was considered a bigger deal in the states than it was in the motherland until the late 20th Century. St. Patrick is the foremost patron saint of Ireland and the day actually marks his death. Because of the Irish diaspora, the holiday is celebrated in more countries than any other national festival.
According to Irish lore, St. Patrick was kidnapped by Irish raiders from Roman-occupied Britain in the 5th Century. He was taken to Ireland as a slave and labored there as a shepherd for six years. During this time, he “found God” and eventually escaped back to Britain. There, he became a priest and then returned to Ireland to convert the pagan Irish to Christianity. An allegory of his efforts was created, and it was said that St. Patrick drove the snakes off the island. (No snakes have ever inhabited the region.) For many St. Patrick’s Day is a fun excuse to wear green and attend a parade. If you’re inspired by St. Patrick or you’re just really feeling the “luck of the Irish,” you might be tempted to name your baby an Irish inspired name. Irish names are heavily influenced by Gaelic and the storied political history of Ireland. These names seem both exotic and familiar. Here are our favorite Irish baby names.
Pronounced “ser-sha,” the name means “freedom” or “liberty” and has only been popular since the 1920s. The name’s most popular bearer is none other than Saoirse Ronan, an Irish actor who recently appeared in the film adaptation of Little Women.
Pronounced “kee-ra” this beautiful girl’s name is the feminized form of the name Ciaran and comes from the Gaelic word “ciar” which means dark. The name implies dark features and was popularized after St. Ciara established a monastery in Tipperary in the 7th Century.
The meaning of the name Conor is contested. Many translate the name to mean “lover of hounds” but some argue it’s derived from the Irish word “coachuhhar” which means “high desire.” The Irish King, Conchobhar had a form of the name and according to legend was born the same day as Christ.
One of the most storied kings of Ireland, Brian Boru had both a sister and daughter named Orla. Alternatively spelled, “Orlaith” the name means “golden princess.”
Meabh is the traditional spelling of the fantastic name Maeve. The name means “intoxicating.” According to Irish legend, Meabh was a warrior queen of Connacht.
Actors Liam Neeson and Liam Hemsworth were both given this handsome name. The name means “strong-willed warrior” and is the shortened form of the more traditional, Ulliam. Ulliam might look familiar to you because it’s the Irish form of the popular English name, William.
The Irish name Cillian pronounced, “kill-ee-an” has many different meanings including “war,” “strife,” and even “bright-headed.” The name is derived from the word “cille” which is associated with “church” or “monastery.” Actor Cillian Murphy is one famous person who proudly bears this name.
Shauna is the female form of the popular Irish boy’s name Sean. The name means “God is gracious” or “present.”
The name Oscar means “deer lover” or “friend of deer” which is just darling. It comes from the Gaelic words “os” which means deer and “cara” which means friend. Irish mythology characterizes Oscar as the son of Oisin, the poet.
While we’ve got you tuned into the names that start with SH-, the name Sinead pronounced “shin-ade” is the Irish form of Jane or Jeanette. Like Shauna, the name also means “God is gracious.” Famous and controversial Irish singer Sinead O’Conner bears the name.
The name Kayleigh is pronounced “kay-lee” and means “slim and fair.” It comes from the Gaelic word “caol” which means “slender.”
Another name fit for a king, Cormac was the name of a 3rd Century king of Ireland. The meaning of this name might be offputting for some, it means “son of defilement.” Yes, you read that correctly. The name comes from Gaelic words, “corb” which means “defilement” and “mac” which means “son.”
The name Dara comes from the word “daire” which means “fruitful” or “fertile.” If you’d like to get into the weeds a bit, Irish legend features Daire Mac Fiachna, who owned the “Brown Bull of Cooley” and refused to sell the bull to Queen Maebh. The refusal resulted in the fight between Ulster and Connacht. Both of which would later be names to provinces in Ireland. Personally, we would like to know more about this Brown Bull.
Fiona is the feminine form of the boy’s name Fionn and means “fair.” Fiona Apple and Fiona Shaw are two celebrities with Irish roots that bear the name.
Actor Imogen Poots might have an English accent, but both of her parents hail from Northern Ireland. The name Imogen comes from the Gaelic word “inghean” and it means “maiden” or “daughter.” Scholars suggest that the name can also be translated to mean “innocent” or “blameless.” The name is pronounced “imma-jen.”
Pronounces, “ree-an” and not to be confused with Ryan, the name Rian means “little king.” It comes from the Irish word for King, “rí.”
Ronan is an extremely old name that means “little seal.” In total, there are twelve saints named Ronan and an ancient king of Leinster who also had the name. Journalist Ronan Farrow famously has this vintage name.
The first person to come to mind when you hear the name Rory might be the character, Rory Gilmore from the show, Gilmore Girls. Although that Rory is a female, the name in Ireland is more commonly given to baby boys. The name means “rust-colored.” The last high king of Ireland, Rory O’Connor reigned from 1166-1170.
The name Nessa has a storied history in Ireland. It belonged to the powerful and politically ambitious mother of Conchobar (Conor) MacNessa, King of Ulster. Ironically, the name means “rough” which is odd for such an elegant sounding name.
Believe or not, the Irish name Fergal is extremely popular. The name comes from “Fearghal” and means “brave” or “valorous.” You could always call him “Fergie.”
Can we just take a moment to discuss how crazy Gaelic pronunciations are? The name Aoibh is both pronounced and comes from “eve.” We’re not sure how that grouping of letters gets one to Eve, but it’s fine. The name means “beautiful” and “radiant.” If you really want to go wild, another popular form of the name Aoibheann is also a derivative. It is pronounced “ay-veen” somehow.
The Irish forms of Adam and Eve are Ádhamh agus Éabha. The name is pronounced “ey-va” and means “life” or “mother of life.”
Pronounced “ash-ling, Aisling is a name that only became popular in the latter 20th Century. The name comes from the Gaelic word “aislinge” and refers to an “aisling” which is a poetic genre of Irish language poetry from the 17th Century.
Over 17 saints bear the name Brendan and the most famous of them is Saint Brendan the Navigator who is rumored to be the first European to set foot on American soil a full 1,000 years before Christopher Columbus. Brendan is an anglicized form of the Irish Breandan, meaning “prince.”
If you’re not bold enough to name your daughter Rihanna outright, you can always go with the Irish form of the name, Riona. The name comes from the Gaelic word “rionach” which means “queenly.” It’s a name fit for a queen!
Oran is a popular boy’s name in Ireland and means “pale.” Some scholars argue that it more accurately translates to “little pale green one.”
Pronounced “kee-an” the name means “ancient” or “enduring.” Irish legend contains tales of Cian Mac Mael Muad who was the son-in-law of Brian Boru, both men were apparently killed in the Battle of Clontarf.
Just a stone’s throw away from Shauna, Shannon means “wise river.” The traditional Irish spelling of the name is Sionainn although there are many different spellings, like Shannen. Actress Shannen Doherty has this beautiful name.
If you’re looking for a rugged baby name, look no further than Craig. It comes from the Gaelic word for rock, “carraig.”
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.” The name means “nobly born” and both forms of the name come from Latin, Patricius.
Irish people have spread across the globe and with them, their culture, heritage, and even names. These Irish names are some of our very favorites and many of them offer alternatives to more common English names. If your baby is due in March or if you just have an affinity for Irish names, any of these thirty options would be great choices.
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