25 Charming Irish Names Parents Have Rarely Heard

Ireland is a country. Just the name brings to mind beautiful coastline and rolling hills. It is the center of a deep-rooted tradition and a strong culture that reaches all the way back to Gaelic beginnings. The Gaelic language is one of the many things that Ireland relies upon to get some of its rare and beautiful names. There are also myths and folklore passed down that are a source of others. Irish myths have a wealth of lore about various creatures and events. Creatures such as the well-known Leprechauns and Banshees to the changelings and the pooka: both of which are varieties of fairies. The Irish have Gods and Goddesses as well and a creation story, which this list draws upon for name inspiration too.

The history of Ireland runs so deep and offers so much to explore that anywhere people look they are bound to find something they did not know before. There is always something about this beautiful strong country worth looking at and the beauty and strength of the landscape definitely carries over into the language and the names. Without a doubt it is one of the most distinct and charming places for name inspiration. Ireland offers names that are easily identifiable yet unique, charming and magical all the same.

Continue scrolling to keep reading

Click the button below to start this article in quick view

Start Now

25 Keelan

Keelan is a bold and strong Irish name that is utilized as either a boys or girl’s name. The name means, “slender and fair.” According to Nameberry Keelan is an Anglicized version of the traditional Caelan. The name Keelan is likely to be unisex in the United States and definitely has a gender-neutral vibe however if you are a stickler for tradition the name is traditionally given to boys in Ireland.

Keelan is reminiscent of names like Kiley or Kendal but with a uniqueness that has not been overdone. Keelan also gives a strong tomboy vibe that is lacking from many popular K names for girls such as Kalani, Kelsey or Kimberly. The name also works as a boys names to replace over popular names like Keegan. Keelan does offer both the more traditional spelling or Caelan and the alternate spelling of Keelin if you are looking for more creative options that have a similar sound. For a modern twist you could even try Keylin although it loses some of its Irish charms in appearance in its modernization looking more like a Kardashian name, it does keep the lovely Irish sound, however.

24 Kavanaugh

Kavanaugh is originally a last name that has since switched sides and is being used as a first name as well. The name Kavanaugh is an Irish boy’s name. Kavanaugh means, “born handsome or son of Caomhan.” While the second meaning appears likely to have been associated more with the last name, the meaning of, “born handsome,” is a fantastic meaning to bestow upon your beautiful baby boy.

Kavanaugh is a name that has a wonderful rich Irish sound but still offers versatility. This name also has a formality to it but a modern edge that traditional names like Edward and Nicholas lack. The name Kavanaugh can also be spelled, Cavanagh, Kavanagh or Cavanaugh. This name has seen the spotlight recently although only as a last name. This bold last name has definitely been in the shadows too long and has way more to offer as a first name, the Irish sound, the beautiful formal look, versatility and a modern edge, Kavanaugh is a perfect diamond in the rough.

23 Madigan

This feisty little Irish name is known to be unisex and is slightly different depending on how you use it. Madigan is Irish and it means, “little dog,” either way. However when used as a girl’s name the name brings to mind a similarity to Madison or Madeline, making it sound more feminine. On its own however the name is rather masculine and the strong -gan ending give it a bold tomboy sound. It is hard to pinpoint where this name belongs as it is truly versatile.

The name Madigan has made several appearances in books, television, and movies. As a first name, this feisty name has yet to gain much attention. The perfect replacement of the over popular Madison or Madeline while still allowing the Maddy nickname Madigan is a fantastic girl’s name. The name also is bold and strong enough to merit being a fantastic boys name in place of the overused Michael or Matthew.

22 Hurley

For all my ocean-loving parents Hurley is the name for you. Hurley means, “sea tide.”Hurley is an Irish name that is Traditionally for boy’s although in the current trend of name usage and the name’s similarity to Haley I could definitely see it used as a girl’s name in the United States. Variations such as Hurleigh or Hurlee are also more feminine making it more likely to be used as a girl’s name.

The name Hurley is bold and strong and strongly related to the tide that it is named after. Hurley also happens to be a popular clothing brand associated with the beach and surfing so if it sounds familiar that may be another reason. This strong name is beautiful and remains absent from name charts in the United States despite being a bold and fierce Irish name.

21 Flynn

Flynn is a name that fits perfectly into the trend of using more masculine names as unisex names such as Ryan and Riley. The name Flynn is popular enough to have made it onto Nameberry’s top name chart for boy’s but it is still missing from the girl’s. Flynn is traditionally a last name, turned first name that is unisex. This Irish name means, “son of the red-haired one.”

Flynn is still mostly a boy’s name but it has the perfect tomboy edge and smooth sweet sound to easily transition to a girl’s name as well. Flynn offers the variations of Flinn or Flyn if you are looking for ways to change up the original even more. The name even made an appearance in the Disney movie Tangled with the daring and misguided Flynn Rider.

No matter how you use it as a first, middle or last name, this short and sweet name packs a punch. Bold but still easy to say and listen to Flynn is a truly universal name that is traditional but definitely still has a place in this modern world.

20 Kiernan

This name definitely has a more Irish sound to it. Kiernan is an Irish name that can be used as either a boy’s or girl’s name. The name has been used in either context and despite its strong sound, it is hard to say whether it is more masculine or feminine. The name has a bold meaning that is sure to be a deciding factor for some parents. The name Kiernan means, “little dark one.” This meaning while bold is one that potentially could turn off some parents especially if they put a lot of stock in meanings.

However, this name has so much to offer that even if you aren’t completely satisfied with the meaning the benefits may just outweigh that. The name gives a sound that is unmistakably Irish so if you are looking to honor a heritage or tradition this name is definitely one to consider. The other plus is that the name is still easy to say and most people will not struggle to say or spell it. The name Kiernan is definitely making progress as a name to use in the States as something different and beautiful, especially with a lack of K names that aren’t overused.

19 Finn

Finn may have one of the best backstories for any name on this list. According to Nameberry, the name is associated with the greatest hero of Irish mythology, Finn MacCool. He was a warrior with superpowers known for being wise and generous. The name Finn means, “fair or white,” and it is used now as both a boy’s or girl’s name. The name is more traditionally a boy’s name.

This short bold name is extremely popular as a boy’s name having made it to number 167 on Nameberry’s popularity chart.f you are looking for a name with an Irish past that is simple and bold Finn is perfect for you. The major downside to Finn is that is has become popular as a boy’s name so it may be more common and therefore your child may not be the only one around with it. The name does offer the modern variation of Fynn which may help to distinguish it if you are willing to break from tradition slightly.

18 Gannon

A nice solid Irish name, Gannon is a boy’s name that has gained popularity in the United States. The name is currently ranked by Nameberry at number 773 on their list. The name, however, is not something that you hear every day so it does still retain so of its uniqueness. Gannon has a strong traditional Irish sound and it means, “fair-skinned, fair-haired.” This sweet simple meaning seems to contradict the strong masculine sound of this name.

The name Gannon does hold a place in Irish history, as the name of an Irish leader. The name Gannon offers some variety. You may choose to mix up the spelling with variations such as Ganin, Ganon, Gannin, Gannen or Ganen. If Gannon is too formal for you and you want to shorten it or be able to have a nickname there are options there as well. Try out Gannie, Gan or Ganny if you are looking for something a bit more fun and relaxed. This traditional name may just be the perfect option for your fair-skinned, fair-haired little bundle of joy.

17 Fallon

Once a unisex name Fallon has gained a reputation for itself as being more of a feminine name. The name itself could easily be used for either a boy or girl with its gender-neutral sound and spelling. Fallon has a bold strong sound and draws attention which is consistent with its meaning of, “leader.” This Irish name may have a reputation but if you are willing to overlook that it would make a great name for a boy as well as a girl.

The name Fallon is not currently popular but it was once in the spotlight thanks to the television show Dynasty. With this new reboot of the classic show, it is possible that Fallon will once again gain popularity. After all this fierce little name is a born leader.

16 Gulliver

Gulliver is an Irish name with an old school feel. The name has a meaning of, “glutton.” Despite this unflattering meaning, this name is perfect for those looking for a name with an Irish origin that has a formal and old school feel to it. Gulliver was originally a Gaelic surname that has been transformed into a first name.

The name is known almost exclusively because of its use in literature. Johnathan Swift chose the name Gulliver for the last name of his character Lemuel Gulliver in his literary classic, Gulliver’s Travels and it is from that book that most people have become familiar with the name. Since that time it has seen some popularity in Europe and has been featured in animated series, anime and video games but the name has yet to really gain any traction in the United States. The name Gulliver has an old-world feel and formality to it that is undeniable. If you want a name that is Irish, rare and that has an elegance and regality to it, Gulliver may be just what you need.

15 Eadaoine

If you are looking for a truly gorgeous name Eadaoine is perfect for you. Eadaoine is an Irish girls name that is a variation on the name Euphemia, which is Greek and means, “fair speech.” With such a beautiful and melodious sound, a unique and gorgeous look and a meaning that is strong and righteous Eadaoine has everything anyone could hope for in a unique name.

Eadaoine as beautiful as it is, however, presents problems. This name is very unique so it is one that is going to be difficult for people who are unfamiliar with it to say and spell. The name also does not offer much in the way of spelling variation because of the way it is set up. The name is associated with an Irish sun goddess however and her name has the spelling variations of Eadoain or Etain if you are looking for other ideas. Eadaoine is beautiful and unique just like your baby girl and a fantastic way to honor Irish history.

14 Dempsey

Dempsey is a name that has been used throughout the States as both a first and last name. Even so, most people do not know that the name is not just the last name of their favorite TV doctor. The name Dempsey is an Irish boy’s name which means, “proud or haughty.”

Reputation and meaning aside this bold name is one that is perfect for those looking for a name to replace overused names like Daniel or Donald but still want something with a familiar sound. A Hollywood favorite, Dempsey is a name that continues to make appearances throughout history and on television. This is a name that holds steady despite everything and would be perfect for your strong little one who you know is going to make history.

13 Delaney

This is an Irish name that is unisex but has gained much more popularity in the United States for girl’s than it has for boys. Delany is an Irish name with a mysterious meaning, “dark challenger.” The name is fairly common and is pronounced how it looks, de-LAY-nee. The name has made it to number 250 on the girl's list on Nameberry but remains off the chart for boys.

Originally a surname Delaney has an upbeat sound that often makes this unisex name give off a more feminine feel. The name has spelling variations such as Delainy, Delany, Delaine, Delane or Delainiey. The nickname Laney is an option as well which adds to the feminine feel of the name overall.

12 Cailean

Cailean is a traditional Irish boy’s name. The name Cailean means, “pup, or cub.” The name is pronounced KAH-lun. This beautiful looking name is the perfect way to replace overused names like Kyle, Keegan or Caleb. The name is the original spelling of what later turned into Colin. The name Cailean is a bit more complicated of a spelling but it falls on the more traditional side of things.

The name Cailean offers a lot of options if you are looking for variations on the traditional. Spelling variations include Kalen, Kalin, Kalan, Caillen, Cailin, Kaelan, Calan, Kaelin, Caelan, or Cailen. There is the cousin name Colin as a simpler option as well although it loses some of its charm and tradition. There is also the nickname Caley which would make a good girl’s name if you are looking for a more feminine variation.

11 Cessair

An interesting name, Cessair is a traditional Irish girl’s name. The name Cessair is pronounced KAH-seer. Cessair means, “sorrow, or affliction.” According to Nameberry, this name comes from a mythical widow. It is said that her tears rained on Ireland. Cessair is also considered the Mother Goddess of Ireland and is said to be the first person to set foot there in old literature. She is also said to be the granddaughter of Noah.

Even though this is a beautiful Goddess level name it does come with some drawbacks. The name is not pronounced how it looks and that can lead to some confusion. The name is also similar to Caesar in spelling and could be confused with it. The beauty of this name and the mystical backstory make this name a treasure and perfect for your new little adventure.

10 Brosnan

9/10/2010. 2 year old Traveller boy rDenis Mc Ginley from Longford is pictured at the Ballinasloe Horse Fair, Ballinasloe, County Galway, Ireland. Picture James Horan

This is another Irish surname that you may be familiar with. The name has been in the spotlight as a surname but as a first name, it remains relatively unknown.

The name Brosnan is traditionally a boy’s name and it means, “dweller near the Brosna River.” Originally a location name it has a nature feel to the meaning that would work for nature-loving parents. The name Brosnan is also a great alternative to the overused Branden and Brandon that have been popular in the States. Strong and masculine, the name Brosnan is the perfect choice for your new bundle of joy to set him apart from the class.

9 Carlin

Carlin is a name that works for either boys or girls and means, “little champion.” A fantastic meaning for the little one you hope will conquer the world. This name has an edgy sound to it that makes it stand out from the traditional names of Irish origin.

While this name is traditionally used for males the name can be used for females and has spin-off names that have gained popularity with females. Names like Carla or Carly which have a more feminine sound have seen more popularity for girl’s in the United States than Carlin has. There are also many spelling variations on the name. For a girl’s name, there are Carlan, Carlana, Carlyn, Carlandra, Carlinda, Carllen, Carllan, Carlynne, Carlynn, Carline, Carrlin, Carlina, Carling, and Carlyna. As a boy’s name, there is the added Karlin. This sassy and bold name has been featured on television and in works of literature alike.

8 Banning

Banning is a unique Irish name that means, “small, fair one.” This name is traditionally a boy’s name and is derived from a surname. This one is definitely unique and has a much different sound than what most people expect from a name. The name Banning is unlike anything that we currently use in the United States however it would make a great substitute for names like Brennan or Brian.

The fact that this name has not made a place for itself on the name charts is not necessarily a bad thing. The name Banning is unique. It is something that is simple and easy to say and understand and yet it is rare and interesting. The name has a meaning perfect for your new small fair bundle of joy and a sound that is sure to be unique to him.

7 Emer

Emer is a girl’s name of Irish origin. Emer means, “swift,” fitting for such a short and sweet name. This cute and to the point name is pronounced ee-mer. The backstory of this name comes from legend as well. Emer was supposedly the wife of Cuchulainn who possessed the six gifts of womanhood; beauty, voice, speech, wisdom, chastity, and needlework. Now those gifts may be a bit out of date but the name still holds true.

The name Emer is a great alternative to the over popular Emily or the recently popular Ember. Emer is similar in sound and the edginess that this name has gives it a modern tone but it is still rare and that means your little one is likely to be the only one around with this gem of a name.

6 Arlen

Arlen is a unisex name that is an Irish boy’s name but overall is considered an English surname. The name has been used as a first name for quite some time. Nameberry places the name on the top 1000 names list from the 1920s to the 1960s. The name is also considered a variation on Harlan.

Used much more often for boys than it is for girl’s Arlen is a name that has an edge and sass to it that makes it a great choice for either gender. Arlen is also a more modern replacement for the outdated name Arlene. Arden is a cousin name that is a possible variation. There are spelling variations available such as Arlyn, Arlan, and Arlin as well.

5 Aideen

Aideen is an Irish girl’s name. This sweet and simple name actually means, “jealousy.” The name itself is thought to be derived from Etain which is the name of an Irish sun and horse Goddess. Aideen also has a shorter and sweeter variation Adina as a possibility.

Aideen has not made it onto the top 1000 names list in the United States as of yet, which is a shame for such a sweet and beautiful name. This name is a perfect alternative to Abigail or Adriana which all seem to be over popular and extremely feminine. The name is similar to the most commonly accepted Aiden.

4 Tiernan

A unisex name, Tiernan is a traditional Irish name which means, “little lord.” As with many Irish names the name Tiernan was a surname which has since been brought over to the side of first names. Tiernan is a great alternative to Tierney which sounds too much like a dictatorship.

The name Tiernan has a classic Irish sound and according to Nameberry, it was popular in early and medieval Ireland. The name still has a classic sound and even that gender-neutral quality parents love these days and yet it still has not made it onto the top 1000 names lists. The name Tiernan is bold and beautiful and remains rare enough to have a captivating quality about it even though it is easy enough for most people to say. The name Tiernan captures the perfect balance of medieval and modern, perfect for your little lord.

3 Tallulah

Tallulah is a name that simply inspires happiness. There is no way to say this name without smiling. The name Tallulah is a bright and joyful Irish girl’s name which is the Anglicized variation of Tuilelaith. The name means, “lady of abundance, or leaping water.”

Lately,  the name has been chosen more and more often by celebrity parents as a name for their children. The name has also frequently been song titles.

The name Tallulah offers many options in spelling and nicknames which makes the name fun to play with, Tallie, Tally, Lula, Talula, Lulu, Tali, and Talulla are some of the fabulous options.

2 Donovan

Donovan is a traditional Irish name that is so familiar and popular that it is actually ranked number 321 on Nameberry’s popularity chart. The name is strong and bold in sound and means, “dark.”

According to Nameberry, the name Donovan was one of the first Irish surnames to gain popularity in the United States as a first name. It has kept this popularity so be aware that it Donovan is the name that sparks your interest just be aware that it may be a name that you see more frequently than some of the others. It is reported that the name had a ranking in the top 1000 names as early as 1900 and it continues to be a fan favorite. Donovan is the name of athletes, actors and television characters.

1 Riona

A name fit for royalty Riona is a traditional Irish girl’s name which means, “queenly.” The name Riona is pronounced REE-uh-nah and is often compared to Fiona although they are not pronounced the same. The name Riona is strong and bold in sound and is the perfect reflection of what a Queen embodies.

Riona has possible variations on the name such as Rionnagh, Rionagh Rionach or Rionna. The variations get progressively more Irish sounding but they also get progressively more difficult to say and spell. The name also offers the cute and sweet nickname Riri. The name has also been seen frequently in Japan through singers, actresses, and figure skaters.

References: britannica.com, nameberry.com, imdb.com, leland.stanford.edu


More in Baby Names