The Celtic language family includes Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, Breton, Manx, Cornish, and several extinct pre-Roman languages such as Gaulish. The languages and cultural traditions are still alive and well in many parts of the UK and the Republic of Ireland. Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, the Isle of Man, and Brittany are still referred to as Celtic nations because of their rich cultures. Celtic baby names have been handed down for centuries and it’s exciting to find one you’ve never heard before.
We decided to take a look at some rare Celtic names to better understand naming traditions and further enrich our knowledge of baby names. If you’re after a baby name that’s a bit more obscure but still has familiar charm, you’ve come to the right place. These names go beyond popular hits like Fiona and Brianna to appeal to parents who favor names off the beaten path. Here are 25 rare Celtic baby names for girls we think you’ll love.
Aoife is an exciting Irish Gaelic name that has a storied history in Irish legend. According to one tale, the name belonged to one of the fiercest warriors in the world. Aoife is pronounced EE-fa and it’s highly favored in Ireland today. The name means “beautiful” or “radiant.”
Another name with Irish origins, Beatha is a glorious name for girls. However, it’s going to be mispronounced a lot so take you and your future child’s patience into account. Beatha is pronounced BEH-tha. The name means “life.” If you’re looking for a unique alternative to Bethany or Beth, Beatha would be a wise choice.
Boudicca is an ancient Celtic name that doesn’t get as much play today as it should. The name belonged to a first-century queen who led her Brittonic Iceni tribe in a revolution against the Romans occupying England. Pretty fierce, right? The name means “victory.” It’s pronounced Boo-di-kah.
Common in Wales, Carys was acquainted with America when Welsh-born Catherine Zeta-Jones and husband Michael Douglas chose it for their daughter in 2003. The name is pronounced CA-riss (not like “care is”). The name has an amiable meaning: “love.”
You might be familiar with the new age-y musician, Enya. Her moniker is the contemporary spelling of Eithne which is pronounced the exact same way. The singer’s full name is Eithne Pádraigín Ní Bhraonáin. Eithne has Irish Gaelic roots and means “nut kernel.” Cute.
Eluned has both the appeals of Eleanor and Luna in one name. It has Welsh origins and is pronounced EL-in-ned. Legendary, Eluned’s beauty and intelligence were storied in Welsh tradition. She was the handmaiden of the Lady of the Fountain in a Welsh Arthurian romance, who had a magic ring that made the wearer invisible. The name means “idol” or “image.”
If you love the name Freya but fear it’s becoming too popular for you to settle on, consider the Irish name Fiadh. Fiadh is a rising star in Ireland and it hit the top ten most popular names for girls this past year. You won’t hear it much outside of Ireland, however, and that’s in part due to its spelling versus pronunciation. The name is pronounced Fee-a. Such a simple name, but the spelling belies that for most people.
In Arthurian legend, Igraine is the mother of Arthur by King Uther Pendragon. You’ll also find this name spelled Ygraine and it’s very popular in Wales. Although this ancient name has a storied and beloved past, it’s never crossed the pond or appeared in the top 1000 names in the US. The meaning of this name is unknown. If you’re looking for a touch of mystery, this name offers it.
Tristan is having a moment, but the other member from this Arthurian romance has yet to take off in the US. Isolde, while known, has never been a popular choice for parents in the states. The name has many spelling variations that change depending on what Celtic nation you’re in. You’ll also find Iseulde, Yseult, and Iseult. The name means “ice ruler.”
Name to a town in Northern Ireland, Keely is a spending name that means “beautiful” or “slender.” If you’re over names like Kelly or Kaylie or Kylie, Keely is a fun alternative. In 1997, Keely placed at number 455 in the US. It hasn’t seen that sort of popularity in decades and we think it’s time for a return.
Liadain is an Irish Gaelic name that means “gray lady.” The name belonged to a lovelorn poet in Irish folk legend. You’ll also commonly see the name spelled as Liadan or Liadin. However it’s spelled, the name is pronounced LEE-din. Get ready to have to explain that to many folks as this name has never been popular in the US.
Lynette is a Welsh name that hasn’t been popular in the US for decades. Lynette peaked in the 1960s, but we see space for this name thanks to other popular monikers like Evelyn, Madelyn, and Brooklyn that all carry the “lyn” syllable. The name means “idol.”
You’ve probably seen the name Morgan, popularized by Arthurian myth, but it’s got a darker, Irish counterpart, Morrigan. Morrigan and Morgan are unrelated, although they are often confused for one another. Morrigan was the mythological ancient goddess of war, often symbolized by a crow. Therefore, this name means “phantom queen.”
You’ll find the name Moya in a ton of different languages and traditions. For our purposes, we’ll consider Moya as the Irish form of Mary. In Scottish, it’s Morag. In Welsh it’s Mairwen. Pick your favorite! We like Moya over Moira, but they’re both variations of the same name. The name means “water” or “bitter” or “star of the sea.”
Neala is the feminine form of the Irish name, Niel which means “cloud.” The name has never been popular in the US, but we sure hope that changes. This is also a great, understated nature name.
Another Irish name with a somewhat perplexing spelling, Niamh is pronounced Neev. You’ll also see the name spelled Neve (as in Neve Campbell). The name was one of the most popular names in Ireland, making the top 10 for many years of the 1990s. The name is broadly popular throughout the UK. We’d love to hear it more in the US.
For fans of Nora or Norah, you can take the preferred Celtic form of an ancient Roman name, Onora. The name means “honor” or “woman of honor.” While Nora climbs the charts in the US, Onara remains relatively unseen.
Rhona is a Scottish Gaelic name and possibly a form of Rowena. Rhona means “rough island.” Rhona made the top 1000 list in the U.S. one year only, in 1951. We love the breezy, casual nature of this handsome name.
Sheridan is an ideal Irish name that has two possible meanings: “searcher” or “untamed.” This elegant name is familiar enough without being too obscure. We’d love to see this name for girls more often.
Siobhan is the Irish Gaelic variation of Joan. The name is pronounced sheh-VAHN. The name means “grace of God.” Siobhan was the name of several early Irish queens and was introduced to the American pop culture by the actress Siobhan McKenna.
Tamsin is the Cornish shortened form of Thomasina. Tamsin can also be spelled in its medieval form, Tamsyn. The name means “twin.” This short, yet sweet name would be a bold and beautiful choice.
You’ll see both Una and Oona in Ireland. This beautiful name can be traced all the way back to ancient Roman times where it was adopted by the Irish. Now, it’s one of the few places the name lived on. The name means “lamb” or “one.”
Vevina would be a welcome alternative to Vivien. Vevina has Scottish Gaelic origins and means “sweet lady.” This poetic, and virtually unheard of name in the US, would make for a charming choice.
The Scottish names are really rounding out the top of this list. They’re so excellent. Here’s another, Wylie which is a Scottish form of William. The name means “resolute protector.” Wylie is a distinctly Celtic surname with as much appeal for girls as for boys.
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In Arthurian legend, Yvain was a knight of the round table. The Scottish loved the name so much that it became a beloved name for girls in many forms. The name means “evening star.” It’s the perfect blend of Yvonne and Elaine.
There you go! 25 rare Celtic names that would be very suitable for your daughter. These names capture so much history and tradition while also seeming contemporary and fresh. We hope you’re inspired to choose one of these monikers for your little one.
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. Aoife
- 2 24. Beatha
- 3 23. Boudicca
- 4 22. Carys
- 5 21. Eithne
- 6 20. Eluned
- 7 19. Fiadh
- 8 18. Igraine
- 9 17. Isolde
- 10 16. Keely
- 11 15. Liadain
- 12 14. Lynette
- 13 13. Morrigan
- 14 12. Moya
- 15 11. Neala
- 16 10. Niamh
- 17 9. Onora
- 18 8. Rhona
- 19 7. Sheridan
- 20 6. Siobhan
- 21 5. Tamsin
- 22 4. Una
- 23 3. Vevina
- 24 2. Wylie
- 25 1. Yvaine
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