Thanks to movies, music and other forms of popular culture, some Irish baby names are no longer immediately thought of as Irish. Most of us know of someone called Liam, Sean, Shannon, or Bridget and we don’t necessarily assume that the owner of such names is Irish or comes from Ireland.
Many names became common because of the naming rituals used in the past. For example, the firstborn son would be named after his father's father and the second son would be named after his mother's father. A third son would be named after his father, and a fourth would be named after his father's oldest brother. For the daughters of the family, the tradition was flipped, and the eldest daughter was named after her mother's mother, and so on.
However, there are still some Irish baby names that have yet to be absorbed into modern day to day usage. Here you will find ten names that are traditionally used for boys and ten names that are usually used for girls.
We apologize in advance. Before this post, it was almost guaranteed that you would never bump into another person with a name on this list, but once these names are out there, everyone will want to use them.
Pronounced “eng-is”, Aengus was the name of the Irish god of youth and love. It was said that four birds flew around his head because his words were as sweet as honey and that these birds inspired love in all who heard them. On the night, while asleep Aengus dreamt of a beautiful young woman and he fell in love with her. His family searched Ireland for almost three years until they found her, and it brought Aengus to the Lake of the Dragon's mouth where there were 150 maidens, all chained in gold.
He picked her out straight away, but all of the maidens were turned into swans, and Aengus was told if he could pick her as a swan he could marry her. He picked her out and was turned into a swan himself then the pair flew off together singing such a beautiful song that all who heard them fell asleep for three days. Theirs is seen as the epitome of a love story.
The name is composed of the Celtic elements meaning "one," and "choice."
This ancient Irish name come from the noun aine which means “splendor, radiance, and brilliance.” Pronounced “awn+ye,” Aine is an Irish goddess of wealth, sovereignty, and summer, as well as the goddess of love and fertility.
In one legend she is attacked by the King of the Fairies. During the assault, she bites off his ear, and he becomes known as Aulom, which means "one-eared." According to the Old Irish law of the time, only the unblemished could ascend to the throne, so Aine had rendered Aulom unfit to be king. Thus she attained the power to grant or take away a man's power to rule.
Aine is also part of a duel goddess myth with her sister Grian. Aine is the light half of the year, the goddess of summer, longer days, and the bright summer sun. Grian meanwhile is the darker half of the year and represents the winter, shorter days and the pale winter sun.
Aine appears in many Irish folktales as “the best-hearted woman who ever lived – lucky in love and in money.”
This boy's name comes from the Irish Gaelic word ailleacht which means beauty. The Ailill of mythology was a king who was chosen by Queen Maebh to be her husband. He was selected because he was “a man without meanness, fear or jealousy, a match for my greatness.”
A dispute between the pair over who was wealthier led to an epic tale of Irish mythology “The Cattle Raid of Cooley.”
Pronounced “all - yell” the original owner of the name and his wife had a tempestuous marriage with both of them taking lovers on multiple occasions. Despite Ailill’s promise to Maebh to remain without jealousy he couldn’t stand to see his wife and Fergus bathing together in a lake. Ailill tricked his blind brother into throwing a spear and killing Fergus, an act which ultimately led to the death of Ailill at the hands of Fergus’s brother Conall.
Pronounce “ee-fa,” Aoife was known as the greatest woman warrior in the world, and she often fought against Scáthach who was her sister and rival. During one of their many battles, Scáthach was joined by Cuchulainn, a legendary fighter who is known for his ferocity in battle. Aoife is such a great warrior her sister attempts to drug Cuchulainn to keep him safe. Instead, he goes onto the battlefield and fights Aoife.
The warrior woman shatters Cuchulainn’s sword, but he shouts out her horse and chariot, the two things she loves the most, are going over a cliff. When Aoife turns to look, Cuchulainn sweeps her up and carries her off. He agrees not to kill her if she will call an end to the fighting and bear him a son.
Many years later Cuchulainn is shattered when he accidentally kills their young son, whom he had never met before.
Made up of the two Gaelic words cath “battle” and all “mighty” the name is used for men who are great warriors and formidable in battle. Another interpretation is that it is made up of cath for “battle” and val for “rule” so the literal meaning is someone who rules in battle. Pronounced “ka-hal” it was a trendy Irish name during the middle ages but fell out of fashion.
Cathal was the given name of many Irish kings before the 1400’s and was most popular in the western provinces of Munster and Connacht. The four Irish provinces are historical in nature and do not have any significance in local government today, but many Irish still refer to them.
Munster covers the south west of Ireland including counties Cork, Limerick, Tipperary, and Waterford. Connacht covered an area that is now Galway, Mayo, Roscommon, Sligo, and Leitrim. If you have family roots in these regions, then Cathal would be an excellent name for your son.
In Irish mythology two legendary warriors, Cú Roí Mac and Cú Chulainn raid an island and come back with untold treasures and Blathnaid, the daughter of the king of the island. When asked to choose his share of the wealth Cú Roí Mac decides he wants Blathnaid and marries her.
Blathnaid is in love with Cú Chulainn so together they hatch a plot to kill her husband. Blathnaid signals to her lover by milking a cow and allowing the milk to run down to the river turning it white. Cú Chulainn follows the river to the secret entrance of the fortress, kills Cú Roí Mac and rescues Blathnaid.
A reasonably popular girl's name in Ireland, but virtually unknown in the rest of the world, Blathnaid is pronounced “blaw-nid” and means flower blossom.
Pronounced as “Kon-la” or “cun-LAKE” depending on the accent, Conlaoch is formed from the words conn meaning “chief” and laoch meaning “hero.”
The Conlaoch of Irish mythology was the son of Cú Chulainn and Aoife. Raised by his mother, he was sent on a journey to meet his father but had three conditions placed upon him. First, he must reveal his name to no one. Second, he cannot turn back once his journey has started and third he must never turn down a challenge.
Cú Chulainn does not know his son when the young man arrives and challenges him to a duel. Conlaoch recognizes his father during the fight and casts aside his weapons. However, his father does not recognize him and stabs him with the fabled spear of sea monster bones and Conlaoch dies.
Cliona, pronounced “klee-ona,” is derived from the name Cliodhna, which means “shapely.” The myth of Cliodhna, who was a Queen of the Banshees, tells of how she falls in love with a mortal called “Keevan of the Curling Locks.” To be with her love, she leaves “the land of promise,” but as she sails to be with him, Cliodhna is swept away by a wave as she sleeps. In some versions of the story she dies and in others she is kept under the waves forever.
It is said that the builder of Blarney Castle, Cormac Laidir MacCarthy, asked Cliodhna for help as he fought a court case. She told Cormac to kiss the first stone he saw the next morning on his way to court. He did so, argued his case with great eloquence and won. MacCarthy incorporated the stone into the castle where people still come to kiss the Blarney stone. The Blarney Stone is said to impart "the ability to deceive without offending."
Ferdia also written as Ferdiad, fought against his friend and foster-brother Cuchulainn in the “Battle Over The Brown Bull Of Cooley.” The fight went on for four days, but each night they sent each other food and sweet herbal medicines to treat the wounds they had inflicted on each other during the day. They had both been trained for battle by the woman warrior Scáthach and so, were equally matched. The only difference between the two was that Cuchulainn had the Gáe Bulg, a barbed spear made from the bones of a sea monster, and Ferdia had “horney skin” which was impenetrable. Ferdia died when he was stabbed by the spear.
Ferdiad means "man/warrior of the pair, but can also be read as "Fear" (man) "dia" (god). This is in recognition of the fact he is sometimes seen as a “man-god.”
The fight was so fearsome that the river beside which they fought, fled its bed in terror.
Pronounced “deck-tir-ra” this beautiful name belonged to the daughter of a goddess and a mortal druid. The stories about her vary, but in each of them, she is the mother of Cuchulainn, conceived with the sun god Lugh.
In one legend she is betrothed, by her brother, to a man who owes her brother a favor. Dechtire is already carrying her child when she gets married and is so torn up by guilt that she crushes her unborn child with the power of her mind “until she was once more like a virgin.”
She is also regularly said to have been able to transform herself from a human form into the form of a bird.
The name is based on the word deich which means “ten, ” and it is thought she was the tenth of her parent's children.
Depending on whereabouts you are in Ireland, Iarfhlaith is pronounced “Ear-lie” or “Ear-la.” Made up of the Irish elements ior, of unknown meaning, and flaith "lord" Iarfhlaith is not a name you are ever likely to hear outside of Ireland.
The name is most popular in the Galway area of Ireland where it is said St. Jarlath (an anglicized spelling) founded a church which became a center of great learning and culture. He chose this spot because the chariot in which he was traveling east broke a wheel at Tuam, County Galway and he took it as a sign that this is where he should set up shop.
Iarfhlaith was considered a man of great piety and had outstanding abilities as a teacher, and this is a popular name for sons of families involved in religion and education.
Eachna was the daughter of an Irish King who was renowned for her physical beauty and the way in which she dressed. One myth says this of her “A smock of royal silk she had next to her skin, over that an outer tunic of soft silk and around her, a hooded mantle of crimson fastened on her breast with a golden brooch.”
Pronounced “eack-na” or “ahk-nah” you can’t go wrong with such a pretty and unusual name for your daughter. Choose Eachna to reflect your family’s Irish roots or to reflect what a cutie she is the first time you meet her.
Not only will she be the only Eachna in her class but you can be pretty sure that, unless you go on an extended trip to Ireland, that she will be the only Eachna you will ever meet.
One of the greatest ever Irish Military commanders was known as “Murtagh of the Leather Cloak,” Murtagh left his home in the middle of winter wearing leather cloaks to protect him against the frigid cold. The first military operation of this magnitude ever attempted in Ireland during the winter, Murtagh led his army from Donegal, under a shelter of leather cloaks, over lakes and rivers frozen by the mighty frost, and around the entire circuit of Ireland. He was the first person to be able to turn back the marauding Vikings and beat them in a sea battle on Strangford Lough in 926.
In 939 he took and burned Viking Dublin, and he led a fleet from Ulster in 801 and devastated the Viking settlements in the Scottish Isles.
Murtagh is pronounced as “mur-tah.”
Pronounced “ee-mer”, this was the name of the wife of Cuchulainn, the famed mythological warrior. The two were betrothed when they were children, but it was common knowledge that Cuchulainn had a wandering eye. This was despite the fact that his wife possessed the “Six Gifts of Womanhood.” These were “beauty, a gentle voice, sweet words, wisdom, needlework, and chastity.”
Eimear put up with him playing the field and justified this by saying “everything new is fair, ” but then she discovered him making love to Fand, wife of the sea god. When Eimer saw how much Fand loved Cuchulainn, she offered to withdraw and allow them to be together. Instead, touched by Eimer's display of magnanimity, Fand returned to the sea and Eimer and Cuchulainn remained together until his death.
The son of another legendary warrior, Fionn Mac Cool and the goddess Sive Oisin, pronounced “osh-een” means “little dear.” He was given this name after the Dark Druid turned his mother into a deer and she reared him in the forest until the age of seven. At that point, his father was out hunting one day in the woods and came across the little boy. Recognising him as his son, he gave him this name.
The Oisin of legend is best known for his legendary love for “Niamh of the Golden Hair” with whom he spent 300 years in Tir-na-nog, (“Land of Eternal Youth”).
Now a favorite boy's name again in Ireland, but yet another that has not traveled past the shoreline and been discovered by the rest of the world. Snatch this one up quick because it is likely to become popular in the future.
Grainne was the patron of the harvest in Ireland, and her name comes from the word gran which means “grain or corn.” Her mythology tells of her being the most beautiful daughter of one of the Kings of Ireland, Cormac MacArt. Grainne, pronounced “graw-nya” had been betrothed to Fionn MacCool but the first time they met was at the wedding feast, before the ceremony.
Grainne was horrified when she saw how old her husband-to-be was and instead cast a love spell on his nephew, Diarmuid. Grainne and Diarmuid ran away together but were pursued relentlessly by Fionn, meaning they were never able to spend more than one night in the same place.
Today megalithic sites around Ireland are said to be the places where they spent the night and are traditionally referred to as “the bed of Grainne and Diarmuid.”
Pronounced “teer-nee” this name means “lord” or “chief,” it comes from the Irish word tiarna and implies the owner of the name is the head of the household. The name is a shortened version of O’Tierney, which in turn was an Anglicized form of Gaelic Ó Tíghearnaigh ‘descendant of Tighearnach’. The traditional use was more that of a title than a name. So whereas an Englishman of high birth might be Lord Brown the Irish version of this would be Ó Tíghearnaigh Brown - although the Irish would not be using the surname Brown of course!
There were five unrelated families in Gaelic Ireland, all of whom used this title as a surname, and they came from in what is now County Clare, County Mayo, County Monaghan, County Meath, and County Tipperary.
Renowned as one of the most remarkable women in Irish history Granuaile, pronounced “graw-nya-wail” was a formidable sea captain who commanded a band of 200 sea-raiders in the sixteenth century. She took up leadership and command of her father's lands and forces, despite having a brother who should have been the one to inherit.
Often seen as a poetic symbol in Ireland, Granuaile was widowed twice and between marriages, her reported sea captain lover was also killed.
Granuaile earned her name when she wanted to accompany her father on an expedition to Spain with her father. He told her that she could not come because her long hair would get trapped in the rigging, so she cut all of her hair off, and Granuile means “cropped.” Embarrassed by his daughter's actions her father relented and took her with him.
The name Ultan means “an Ulsterman” and is pronounced “ult-in.” It is best-known in Ireland as the name of a famous saint, an Irish monk who eventually became an abbot of his own monastery.
One story tells of how he was standing on the shore when some ships appeared to pillage the monastery. Ultan was holding something in his right hand, and so he was forced to make the sign of the cross with his left. After he made the sign of the cross, all of the ships sank, and the sailors were turned into rocks on the shoreline. This story is the source of an old Irish saying "May Ultan’s left hand be against it."
St Ultan is also the patron saint of children and the children’s hospital in Dublin is named after him.
Pronounced “ro-sheen” this Irish girls name evolved from the Latin name Rosa, and it means “little rose.” The name has been used in Ireland since the sixteenth century and is another name that is popular in Ireland but hasn’t traveled around the world yet.
The name Roisin was often used in nationalistic songs at times in Ireland's history when patriotic poetry and song was banned. Love songs with the name Roisin in them were actually songs about Ireland, with Roisin being used as a replacement for the country.
The only danger in choosing this name is that it will be forever misspelled and you will always be telling people: "yes that’s the right spelling, it’s not supposed to be Rosie”. Of course, you also risk your daughter being nicknamed Rosie and not use her beautiful Irish name.
Sources: behindthename.com, babynamesofireland.com, godchecker.com,
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